The 50th running of the Haskell Invitational Stakes, also known as “the war at the shore” will take place this Sunday at Monmouth Park. The New Jersey oval will host the G1 1-1/8 mile battle of 3yr olds over their dirt course. The Haskell has a purse of $1,000,000 and is a Breeder’s Cup Classic “win and you’re in” event.
6 of the 7 starters are familiar names from their Triple Crown runs, but no Triple Crown winners are here. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing opted for the Jim Dandy at Saratoga this weekend instead. Tapwrit, the Belmont champion, is aiming for the Travers Stakes next month.
With no dominant 3yr old coming out of the Triple Crown, the battle for year-end honors is up for grabs. Hopefully the Haskell and Jim Dandy can help clarify this crop of sophomores.
Monmouth Park has the reputation as a speed favoring track due to its short stretch. Recent statistics reveal that while front runners and stalkers have an advantage, deep closers are not to be dismissed. Post positions in the Haskell will be vital this week not because of a bias, but because the top 3 speed horses, Irish War Cry, Battle of Midway and Timeline have drawn the three inside posts. It should be an interesting run to the first turn.
With the 3 speed horses breaking together, the pace scenario should be sharp. Irish War Cry will be running his first race since his 2nd place finish in the Belmont. He also has a dubious form cycle of not being able to put back to back races together.
Battle of Midway is coming off of a victory in the G3 Affirmed where he easily beat a soft field by setting the pace at a crawl. Battle of Midway is capable of faster fractions as he showed in the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, but he was not tested in the Affirmed and I don’t think he got much out of it besides the purse.
The rest of the field should be hoping for a battle up front. Those waiting to pick up the pieces are multiple graded stakes winners Practical Joke, McCraken, Hence and Girvin. This is a questionable group and I can make a case against each one. Practical Joke ran into a perfect setup and had a perfect ride in his Dwyer victory. McCraken’s speed figures have not moved forward from his 2yr old season. Hence is the only consummate deep closer but his speed figures are not up to par.
Girvin’s last was an Ohio Derby victory where he posted a career best Brisnet speed figure, but the time of 1:50 and 2/5ths makes me really question that figure.
The horse I landed on here is Timeline, the 3-1 morning line 2nd choice. Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano, Timeline is making his 5th career start. He is a perfect 4 for 4 including a pair of G3 wins. His speed figures are consistent and he has that high cruising speed that great horses possess. I think that he will sit off of Irish War Cry and Battle of Midway in a coveted rail run around both turns. Going back to his maiden win at Gulfstream, Timeline has shown the ability to rate off the pace and turn it on in the lane. I don’t think we have seen the best of Timeline and I look for him to take another step forward in the Haskell.
The only other horse I see at the wire with Timeline is Practical Joke, the other Chad Brown horse in the race. He was not tested and won his last easily.
I will take Timeline to win, along with an exacta box, Timeline and Practical Joke.