Led by Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Lookin At Lucky, one of the deepest fields in the 43-year history of the IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I) was drawn July 29 at Monmouth Park.
A field of eight 3-year-olds was entered for the $1 million Haskell on Aug. 1, a race that could go a long way in determining the 3-year-old champion. In addition to 5-2 morning-line favorite Lookin At Lucky and co-second choice Super Saver, Derby runner-up Ice Box, Preakness runner-up and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) third-place finisher First Dude, and the up-and-coming Trappe Shot are included in the strong field.
Race coverage will air live on ABC beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.
Owned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman, Lookin At Lucky has been at the top of his class ever since winning four consecutive races as a juvenile en route to being named champion 2-year-old male in 2009. This year, the son of Smart Strike won the Rebel (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park and two races later was sent off as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Despite finishing sixth during a troubled trip, Lookin At Lucky came back to win the May 15 Preakness by three parts of a length.
The bay colt missed about a week of training for Bob Baffert between the Preakness and the Haskell, but he has turned in five solid works this month. Martin Garcia, who rode Lookin At Lucky for the first time in the Preakness, has the mount once again. Like he did in the Derby, Lookin At Lucky will break from post 1.
"I can't believe how poorly this horse draws. He's the most poorly drawn horse I've ever had," said Baffert, who won consecutive editions of the Haskell in 2001 and 2002 with Point Given and War Emblem, respectively, and with Roman Ruler in 2005. “He looks like he’s ready for a big race. It’s not an easy spot, but from here on out none of them are easy.”
Overall, Lookin At Lucky has won seven of 10 starts, including four grade I events. Bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms and out of the Belong to Me mare Private Feeling, he has earned $2,113,000.
Super Saver received the prefect trip under Calvin Borel to win the May 1 Derby, giving owner/breeder WinStar Farm and trainer Todd Pletcher their first victory in the Run for the Roses. That was the second graded win for the son of Maria's Mon , who also romped in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) as a juvenile.
Super Saver tired badly at the top of the stretch in the Preakness en route to an eighth-place finish. Since then, he has trained well for Pletcher in New York, working seven times including a five-furlong move in 1:00 3/5 on July 26 at Saratoga.
Borel, who won the Haskell last year aboard Rachel Alexandra, will attempt to become the first jockey to ever win back-to-back editions of the race. They will break from post 6, which Pletcher described as "perfect."
Pletcher and WinStar Farm teamed to take back-to-back runnings of the Haskell in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and in 2007 with Any Given Saturday .
“The race is going to be run for the 3-year-old champion in the second half of the year,” said Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager for WinStar. “You have a few horses on even ground, Super Saver being one of them. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to Monmouth. We want it to be settled on the track.”
Robert LaPenta’s Ice Box came from way off the pace in his impressive runner-up Derby finish, missing by 2 1/2 lengths in the slop at Churchill Downs. The 20-1 Florida Derby (gr. I) winner could not duplicate his run in the June 5 Belmont Stakes, as he was never a factor while finishing ninth.
Since the Belmont, Ice Box has worked steadily at Saratoga for trainer Nick Zito, who seeks his first Haskell victory. Jose Lezcano, a former leading rider at Monmouth, has the call on the son of Pulpit . They drew post 3.
Though Donald Dizney’s First Dude has won just one of eight starts, it can be argued that he was the best horse in both the Preakness and Belmont. The Stephen Got Even colt set a contested pace in both races under Ramon Dominguez before falling just short in each. Along with Super Saver, he is again expected to be near the front in the Haskell. Dominguez stays aboard for trainer Dale Romans.
“He was doing great before the Belmont and he’s doing just as well heading into this race,” said Romans, who will saddle his first Haskell starter. "I think he moved forward off of (the Triple Crown races)."
Undefeated in four starts this season for Kiaran McLaughlin, Mill House’s Trappe Shot is the buzz horse coming into the Haskell. The Tapit colt overcame a poor start to win the Long Branch Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths on July 10 at Monmouth in his stakes debut and his first try at two turns. He will attempt to become the first horse to win both the Long Branch and the Haskell since Lion Heart did it in 2004. Alan Garcia will be in the irons once again on the co-second choice.
Rounding out the field are Zito’s other entrant, Our Dark Knight, a three-length allowance winner at Monmouth June 19 making his stakes debut; Uptowncharlybrown, who was fifth in the Belmont and is also trained by McLaughlin; and the only member of the field stabled locally, Afleet Again, most recently a hard-closing second in June 19 Pegasus (gr. III).
$1,000,000 Haskell Invitational (gr. I), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Trainer, Jockey, Odds
1. Lookin At Lucky, 122, Bob Baffert, Martin Garcia, 5-2
2. Afleet Again, 118, Robert Reid Jr., Joe Bravo, 12-1
3. Ice Box, 120, Nick Zito, Jose Lezcano, 9-2
4. First Dude, 118, Dale Romans, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1
5. Our Dark Knight, 118, Nick Zito, Elvis Trujillo
6. Super Saver, 122, Todd Pletcher, Calvin Borel, 3-1
7. Uptowncharlybrown, 118, Kiaran McLaughlin, Rajiv Maragh, 15-1
8. Trappe Shot, 118, Kiaran McLaughlin, Alan Garcia, 3-1