The 49th renewal of the Betfair.com Grade 1, $1m Haskell Invitational takes place at Monmouth Park this Sunday. It is a Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" event for the $5m Breeders' Cup Classic to be held in November at Santa Anita. Here is New Jersey Exchange handicapper Dean Keppler's runner-by-runner guide...
"Gun Runner has good tactical speed and he should be ideally positioned behind likely pacesetter Nyquist. The country's hottest jockey Florent Geroux has the ride and seems to relish these high-profile races."
In 2015, American Pharoah recorded an impressive victory before a record crowd of 60,983. Run over nine furlongs, the Betfair.com Haskell Invitational routinely draws the top three-year-olds in the country to the Jersey Shore. This year's running is no exception.
Nyquist (guide price 6/5)
The Kentucky Derby winner and two-year-old Eclipse Award champion could not have drawn a better post. This son of Uncle Mo is eight for nine lifetime and the earner of over $5m'. He's won five Grade 1 races and suffered his lone defeat to Exaggerator over the sloppy Pimlico surface in the Preakness. Regular rider Mario Gutierrez should have a tactical advantage breaking from the rail, and this three-year-old colt appears to be a legitimate favorite.
Last three TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 124,125,116
The Grade 1 Preakness and Santa Anita Derby winner was a surprising late addition to this race. Was second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, with Gun Runner in third. The tables were turned two weeks later, when Nyquist finished third and Exaggerator won the Preakness. This colt has proven his affinity for a wet track (4-3-1-0) so he should be upgraded if potential thunderstorms roll in. Very tactical, he would likely be the beneficiary of a pace collapse.
Last three TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 110,124,121
American Freedom (3/1)
This rapidly improving colt by Pulpit is three for four lifetime and comes off a strong victory in the (G3) Iowa Derby. Daily Racing Form west coast correspondent Jay Privman reports that this handsome colt has looked nothing short of tremendous in his most recent works at Del Mar. The colt has shown the ability to stalk and pounce, which should serve him well in this spot. His conditioner Bob Baffert has won this race a record eight times.
Last three TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 122,117,114
Gun Runner (4/1)
According to his trainer this son of Candy Ride has matured physically and mentally over the past couple of months and is comes into this race in tremendous form. This multiple (G2) winner finished third in the Kentucky Derby and recently took the (G3) Matt Winn stakes at Churchill by five widening lengths. He has good tactical speed and he should be ideally positioned behind likely pacesetter Nyquist. The country's hottest jockey Florent Geroux has the ride and seems to relish these high-profile races. Trainer Steve Asmussen won the 2009 edition with the champion filly Rachel Alexandra.
Last three TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 117,123,115
Awesome Slew (15/1)
Has yet to record a stakes victory, but this colt is trained by the locally based Eddie Plesa, and will be making his third start off the extended layoff which is typically a productive move for this barn. He finished third in the (Grade 3) Betfair.com Pegasus on June 19 which is a local prep for this race. This colt will need to improve significantly to compete with these but gets the services of the meet's leading rider Paco Lopez.
Last three TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 113,102,82
Sunny Ridge (20/1)
This Holy Bull gelding has not been out since March but trainer Jason Servis has excellent numbers with these layoff types. This (G3) Withers winner is two for two over the Monmouth Park main track. His Timeform speed ratings are on the light side, however, and he'll have to move up considerably to compete. This looks a very tough return.
Last 3 TimeformUS Speed Ratings: 112,105,102
First: 4-Gun Runner
Second: 5-American Freedom
Third: 3-Awesome Slew