John Velazquez riding Medina Spirit, right, leads Florent Geroux on Mandaloun, Flavien Prat riding Hot Rod Charlie and Luis Saez on Essential Quality to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
- Saturday’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park is the first major three-year-old race since the Triple Crown ended
- The runner up in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes are all entered
- Who is the best bet when we factor in line value Saturday on the Jersey Shore?
If you only pay attention to three horse races a year, you’re missing out. Sure, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes comprise the Triple Crown and are a big deal, but the horses that run in that trio usually don’t stop racing in June in their three-year-old season. While there are several second-tier three-year-old stakes sprinkled throughout the summer, Monmouth’s Haskell Invitational, Saratoga’s Travers Stakes, and Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, which is open to older horses too, are big-time events.
When horses are two and at the start of their three-year-old season they are fully focused on reaching the Kentucky Derby. Once the Triple Crown ends everyone is planning their path to November’s Breeders Cup.
Saturday’s Haskell has a competitive field. Let’s look at the horses and consider our betting options.
2021 Haskell Invitational Odds
|Hot Rod Charlie||+125|
Odds as of July 15 at Bet365
The Haskell has been won by greats, particularly recently. Last year Kentucky Derby winner Authentic took the $1 million event. In 2019, after Maximum Security was disqualified in the Run for the Roses he rebounded with a win in Jersey’s biggest race. Over the last 15 years American Pharoah, Lookin At Lucky, Rachel Alexandra, and Big Brown have all found the winners circle.
Run since 1968, the Haskell is a mile-and-an-eighth test on the dirt. It is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In event for a BC Classic berth.
NBC has television coverage. Post time on Saturday is slated for 5:47 pm EST.
It is extremely likely that history will show Mandaloun as the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. That is not the case yet, but after failing a pair of drug tests Medina Spirit is almost certainly going to be stripped of his title.
Mandaloun was a big price at Churchill Downs because he ran very poorly in the Louisiana Derby. Every other race in his career is excellent. He returned from the Derby and beat a ho-hum small field at Monmouth in last month’s Pegasus Stakes.
If Mandaloun is declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Hot Rod Charlie will get bumped up from third to second. Runner up is the spot he finished in this year’s Belmont Stakes too.
While Hot Rod Charlie has only two victories in nine starts, he has consistently run really well. His effort was big at Churchill, and battling the Derby favorite to the wire in the Belmont Stakes is rock solid. Hot Rod Charlie needed four races to break his maiden, but in five graded stakes since he has hit the board each time against the top horses in his class.
Midnight Bourbon was sixth across the line in the Kentucky Derby and returned two weeks later to finish second at the Preakness Stakes.
Though he hasn’t won since January and has only two victories in nine starts, Midnight Bourbon finished second to Hot Rod Charlie at the Louisiana Derby and needs only mild improvement to compete with the top two here.
Following Sea is untested. Trainer Bob Baffert didn’t debut the son of Run Happy until March. After a third-place finish against maidens at Santa Anita, he easily won his first race in May at Oaklawn Park.
Runhappy offspring run 1,2 @OaklawnRacing in the 4th! Following Sea and @JRosarioJockey wins impressively for the Bob Baffert barn ahead of Happymac 🏇 @GalleryRacing @claibornefarm pic.twitter.com/oz6kJXWPUm
— NYRA Bets (@NYRABets) April 10, 2021
He backed up that win with a decisive victory albeit against only three rivals at Belmont last month. This is his second race with Todd Pletcher conditioning him. Baffert lost the horse after the Medina Spirit controversy at the Kentucky Derby.
Haskell Stakes Best Bet
Hot Rod Charlie could have won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Had he won either, he would be a significant favorite here. However, he didn’t. Mandaloun on the other hand is going to end up being the Derby champ, and came back with a win, albeit not with a top effort. To get the horse who is winning, and score better odds feels like good value.
Pick: Mandaloun (+200)
2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Odds Tracker
Saturday’s Other Graded Stakes Races at Monmouth Park
This is the biggest day of racing all year at Monmouth Park. Four other graded stakes races are on the card and are worthy of a short discussion. The $500,000 United Nations Stakes is a mile-and-three-eighths for Grade 1 turf horses. The Grade 3 Monmouth Cup has a $300,000 purse for dirt horses going a-mile-and-an-eighth. The Molly Pitcher Stakes carries a Grade 3 designation and a $250,000 purse for girls going a-mile-and-a-sixteenth on the dirt. The Matchmaker Stakes is a Grade 3 for girls going a-mile-and-an-eighth on the turf.
United Nations Stakes
Arklow didn’t run great in this race last year, but it may have been a turning point. Wearing blinkers for the past four races, the seven-year-old with career earnings north of $2.7 million has three victories, and his lone loss came in the Breeders Cup.
Arklow is the only winner of a Grade 1 race in North America in this field.
At a big price, Tribhuvan came close. After winning a Grade 2 in May at Belmont, he led for most of The Manhattan in June, finishing second to Domestic Spending. His last two races, both strong, came after he was gelded.
It appeared that Master Piece did not like the soft surface at Belmont in The Manhattan. He won a grade 2 in Chile and took an allowance race at Keeneland in April.
Winters Back was second as the favorite in a Grade 2 race at Monmouth in June. He has never beaten this caliber, but should be forwardly placed.
Monmouth Cup Stakes
Ny Traffic just missed when running against Authentic in the Haskell last year before subpar efforts in two Triple Crown races, when the order of three-year-old events shifted because of COVID-19. This year he has been solid.
Ny Traffic opened the year by beating a small overmatched field in New York, and last month finished second at Monmouth in a Grade 3 try.
Last year’s Belmont runner up Dr Post has just one victory since. He won a Grade 3 stakes on May 1 at Belmont Park. He was beaten badly against better horses in the Met Mile on June 5.
This is a step up in competition for Bankit. His last three races have included three wins and two seconds, and he crushed a state bred stakes field at Belmont in the mud last time out.
Night Ops has just one win over the last year but has been in the mix against top horses. Even though three of his last four have come against ungraded stakes horses, the competition here might be a step back.
Pick: Night Ops
Molly Pitcher Stakes
A very competitive field gets together including Vault, who beat Water White and Our Super Freak, a couple of rivals she faces again here, in a Grade 2 victory in May.
Vault was outclassed against a better group of Grade 2 runners in June at Churchill Downs. The veteran has won seven times, but ran poorly in this race last year, his only appearance at Monmouth.
Mrs Danvers hasn’t won in three tries this year but was strong last fall and winter. She won a Grade 3 event in November and has faced good horses since.
Bank Sting is stepping way up in class but has won four straight against increasingly tougher competition. Her lone loss came in her debut back in December 2019. After taking off more than a year, she’s unbeaten since.
Juliet Foxtrot began this year with a Grade 1 victory when she went wire-to-wire at Keeneland.
She returned to finish second in a Grade 3 event at Churchill Downs, which has never been her favorite track. A six-time winner, the Brad Cox trainee consistently faces top competition.
Pletcher’s Always Shopping won a $100,000 race to close 2020, and easily won a Grade 3 event to start this year. After running second in March, her last two efforts are ho-hum. Mike Repole owns a high-end stable, but she’ll need her best Saturday.
Top turf trainer Chad Brown has four horses entered here, Kalifornia Queen, Nay Lady Nay, Great Island and Counterparty Risk. Only lightly raced Great Island hasn’t won a graded stakes race. Kalifornia Queen probably has the best combination of solid recent form and back class. Nay Lady Nay won this race last year.
Pick: Juliet Foxtrot