The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational, a Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" race, will run Sunday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. This is easily the most anticipated three-year-old race since the Triple Crown was completed in June. The race will be highlighted by the appearances of Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. The field of eight also includes Kentucky Derby starter Pants On Fire and Preakness starters Astrology and Concealed Identity.
Shackleford has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. Louisville trainer Dale Romans gave the Preakness Stakes winner a brief two-week freshening at WinStar Farms following the Belmont. Since then, Shackleford's turned in three impressive works. His last two were bullet works going five furlongs in :59.
The Haskell distance of 1 1/8 miles should be to Shackleford's liking and jockey Jesus Castanon will likely have the Forestry colt on the lead or sitting just off the pace. He certainly looks like the one to beat.
Ruler On Ice, the surprising Belmont Stakes winner, is listed at 4-1 on the morning line. His last work was a speedy four furlongs in :47. Ruler On Ice has raced five times this year and finished in the money in each of those starts. However, he finished third in his only race at this distance, the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.
Aside from Ruler On Ice's Belmont win, his only other win this year came in an Allowance race at Philadelphia Park in Pennsylvania. The Haskell will be a good judge of whether this gelding is a three-year-old worthy of Three-year-old Championship consideration or just another three-year-old fluke.
A newcomer to watch is Bob Baffert's Coil. Coil has been listed as the 3-1 second choice in the morning line. This son of Point Given (Baffert's first Haskell winner in 2001) made his first start this year in May when he won an Optional Claiming race over Hollywood Park's synthetic surface and earned a 106 Beyer speed figure. Coil then went on to win the Affirmed Handicap and finished second in the Swaps Stakes.
The Haskell will be Coil's first race on the dirt. The move from synthetic to dirt often proves to be a successful betting strategy. Adding in Coil's lightning fast works, which includes three bullets, this colt must figure into the trifecta.
Rounding out the field are Louisiana Derby and Pegasus Stakes winner Pants On Fire, with jockey Elvis Trujillo replacing an injured Rosie Napravnik; Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann; Federico Tesio Stakes winner Concealed Identity; Bay Shore Stakes winner JJ's Lucky Train; and Iroquois Stakes winner Astrology.
The race is the 12th on Monmouth's stakes-filled Sunday card. Post time is 5:43 p.m. The race can be seen on ABC, HRTV and TVG.
Photo: Courtesy Breeders' Cup