The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational boasts a purse of $1 million. It is one of the best races on the calendar for sophomore colts. The Monmouth race is contested at 1 1/8 miles and has gathered a field of six horses. Recent winners include Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra and Lookin At Lucky. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the last two editions of the race and will saddle Paynter as the 3-2 favorite this year.
Nonios (Pleasantly Perfect x Stylish Manner by Touch Gold): Winner of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap has never raced on dirt, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer told Blood-Horse that he trained well at Pleasanton as a juvenile. He was last seen finishing second in the Swaps Stakes, rallying into a slow place to lose by ¾ of a length. The Swaps has been a good prep for this race and produced last year’s winner, Coil.
Dullahan (Even The Score x Mining My Own by Smart Strike): Belmont Stakes favorite failed to fire in that race and before that was a hard closing third in the Kentucky Derby. His best career efforts have been on synthetic tracks. It’s too early to write off his dirt ability, but he clearly is better on synthetic. He fired a quick :59 4/5 B five furlong bullet on July 21 and will be reunited with jockey Kent Desormeaux. Dale Romans trains this colt that could be hot or cold. Tough to tell for sure and the price is too short to take a chance.
Paynter (Awesome Again x Tizso by Cee’s Tizzy): The talk of the town, this colt was last seen relenting in the Belmont Stakes to finish second, a neck behind Union Rags. He is the speed of the speed and the one they will have to catch. His talent level is high and clearly visible, but there are still questions for him to answer. He catches the best field he has ever faced today and the price is too short. Rafael Bejarano rides for Bob Baffert.
Gemologist (Tiznow x Crystal Shard by Mr. Prospector): Todd Pletcher and WinStar Farm were shocked that this guy ran so poorly in the Kentucky Derby where he finished 16th. It turns out he sustained a minor injury in the race that required some time off, but now he is ready to go. Previously undefeated, it is hard to find a knock on him. A five furlong work in :58 2/5 B which Pletcher thought was spectacular tells us he is sitting on a big effort. Very, very dangerous for jockey JJ Castellano.
Handsome Mike (Scat Daddy x Classic Strike by Smart Strike): This Doug O’Neill pupil was a fringe contender for the Kentucky Derby, but couldn’t make the race. His best effort to date saw him finish third in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate behind Daddy Nose Best and Lucky Chappy. After that he was taken off the pace and rallied to be fourth in Turfway Park’s Spiral Stakes. His works are strong and Mario Gutierrez is making the trip to ride. Anything is possible for this dark bay.
Stealcase (Lawyer Ron x Steal The Show by Cat Thief): Another fringe contender in the Kentucky Derby, Stealcase woke up just a little too late. He ran third in the Derby Trial, only a neck behind Paynter. After that he ran off to a four length allowance win over Morgan’s Guerrrilla and Seven Lively Sins. His last venture to the races was a second place finish behind Neck n’ Neck in the Matt Winn Stakes. Neck n’ Neck could be the best sophomore in America. All in all, this one might be best suited for races between 7 and 8 ½ furlongs. Shaun Bridgmahon rides for Mark Casse.