By Richard Rosenblatt
Just call this the runner-up Haskell Stakes.
The second-place finishers from the Triple Crown – Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby (for now), Midnight Bourbon in the Preakness and Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes – are the headliners for the $1 million Haskell (G1) next Saturday (July 17) – the showcase event at Monmouth Park on the Jersey Shore.
With no final word yet on whether Derby winner Medina Spirit will be disqualified for a positive post-race test for a prohibited medication, Mandaloun could be the Haskell favorite off his win in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 13.
Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 on Saturday at Monmouth.
“An easy maintenance work,” said Blake Cox, the son of Brad Cox, who plans to arrive for the Haskell on race day. “He went the five-eighths in 1:02 and was out in about 1:13.3 and he galloped out very well.
“We asked him a little bit and he picked it up. A very solid work.”
Hot Rod Charlie, the Louisiana Derby winner who ran third in the Derby, was due to arrive from California on later Saturday (July 10). He is trained by Doug O’Neill.
Basso, taking a huge step up in class, also worked Saturday at Monmouth for trainer Gregg Sacco. The colt won in his debut last year and is 0-for-4 since.
“We’re all set to go. It was actually picture-perfect work. Isaac Castillo (who will ride Basso) was on him. He couldn’t have been any happier with him,’’ said Sacco.
In addition to Midnight Bourbon, the other probables are Monmouth-based Pickin’ Time and Following Sea.
This will be the 54th edition of the Haskell, run at 1 1/8 miles. Bob Baffert, the Hall of Famer who trains Medina Spirit, will not have a horse in the race. He has a record nine wins in the Haskell, including 2020 with Authentic. Neither Preakness winner Rombauer nor Belmont winner Essential Quality (also trained by Brad Cox) will run in the Haskell.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.