After a Triple Crown season that provided plenty of excitement but no outright 3-year-old superstar, the division heats up again starting this Saturday at the Jersey Shore when Monmouth Park hosts its signature race.
The $1 million, Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes drew a field featuring three horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, including highly touted Taiba, who has returned to Bob Baffert’s barn and will try to extend his all-time record of wins in the Haskell to 10. In the other major storyline, unbeaten Jack Christopher will stretch out to two turns for the first time Saturday evening, and a dominant performance in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell could vault him to the top of the 3-year-old division with the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes looming in late August.
The Haskell will be held for the 51st time this year. It has – along with the Travers – been a very important race in determining the Eclipse Award winner as champion 3-year-old male, especially in years where no dominant horse emerged on the Triple Crown trail.
Past winners include Forty Niner (1988), Holy Bull (1994), the filly Serena’s Song (1995), Skip Away (1996), Touch Gold (1997), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Big Brown (2008), the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009), Lookin At Lucky (2010), Bayern (2014), Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015), Good Magic (2016), and Authentic (2020). Read more about the race’s history here.
In addition to its divisional prestige, the Haskell is also a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Haskell winner will receive a fees-paid berth to the $6 million Longines Classic Nov. 5 at Keeneland Race Course. Three prior Haskell winners have trained on to win the Classic: Bayern in 2014, American Pharoah in 2015, and Authentic in 2020.
The Haskell Stakes will be shown live on CNBC as part of NBC Sports’ “Road to the Breeders’ Cup” series, during a show airing from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.
Read on for information about all eight Haskell contenders.
1. Cyberknife (6-1)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Brad Cox
Owners: Gold Square
Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $996,520
Earnings per start: $124,565
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104
Pedigree: Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This talented runner erased a poor performance in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve by outfinishing Howling Time by a nose in a thrilling renewal of the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn Stakes June 12 at Churchill Downs. The Gun Runner colt had emerged as a mid-level Derby contender in early 2022, winning an allowance-optional claiming race at Fair Grounds and then making a bold middle move and taking over in the stretch to defeat Barber Road and subsequent Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. In the run for the roses, he backed out of contention on the far turn and finished 18th of 20. Trainer Brad Cox has always been high on Cyberknife and felt he was a late bloomer; if he can move up another rung in terms of maturity and physical development, he has a chance at securing a second Grade 1 victory, adding to the Arkansas Derby. Look for jockey Florent Geroux to position Cyberknife just off of what projects to be a solid pace before asking him to accelerate on the far turn. Cox and Geroux earned their first Haskell win last year when Mandaloun was elevated to first via Hot Rod Charlie’s disqualification.
2. Taiba (7-5)
Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Zedan Racing Stables
Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $490,200
Earnings per start: $163,400
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102
Pedigree: Gun Runner – Needmore Flattery, by Flatter
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Taiba figures to vie with Jack Christopher for post-time favoritism in the Haskell as he attempts to rebound from his first career defeat in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. He shipped to Churchill Downs with an aura of “potential superhorse” surrounding him based on two dominant wins to start his career at Santa Anita Park, including a 2 ¼-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. That win came under the supervision of trainer Tim Yakteen instead of his regular trainer, Bob Baffert. Baffert surrendered duties while serving a three-month suspension as punishment after his 2021 Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit tested positive for a corticosteroid. Taiba was sent off at an underlaid 5.80-1 odds in the Derby, the third post-time betting choice, and he stalked the pace within reach of the lead heading into the far turn only to tire and finish 12th of 20. That, hopefully, served as a good education for the lightly raced colt, who had only competed against a total of 11 horses in his first two starts. Now, Taiba is back under Baffert’s care, and the Hall of Famer has won the Haskell a record nine times, all coming since 2001 (he also has four runner-up finishes). Baffert expressed confidence in the days leading up to the Haskell that Taiba was ready to take a significant step in development in his fourth career start, and it would be foolish to dismiss this son of Horse of the Year Gun Runner based on his Derby result. Look for him to be forwardly placed early, ideally just off the pace set by Howling Time and possibly Benevengo, and his time off since the Derby plus abundant stamina and talent should make him a major threat in the homestretch. Baffert’s prior Haskell wins came with Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), Lookin At Lucky (2010), Coil (2011), Paynter (2012), Bayern (2014), American Pharoah (2015), and Authentic (2020). Hall of Famer Mike Smith rode Authentic and also has two additional Haskell wins dating back to the 1990s: Coronado’s Quest in 1998 and the great Holy Bull in 1994.
3. One Time Willard (30-1)
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Trainer: John Stephens
Owner: Barrister Breeding
Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 3 thirds
Career earnings: $74,312
Earnings per start: $14,862
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 85
Pedigree: Micromanage – Pinot Grigio, by Unbridled Jet
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This gelding figures to be up against it in the Haskell Stakes, coming into the race as a maiden winner. His career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 85 came in that victory, which occurred in a 5 ½-furlong sprint back in May, and it is about 20 points lower than what will be required to win (or perhaps even hit the board) Saturday. Since his win at Monmouth, One Time Willard has finished third twice (moved up from fourth in one of those starts) in a pair of allowances restricted to New Jersey-breds and fourth once in a stakes race at Belmont Park restricted to horses sired by New York-based stallions. He’s been defeated by a combined 16 ¾ lengths in those starts, and he’s only raced longer than seven furlongs once (that coming at one mile and 70 yards in the race he when was moved up to third). Needless to say, One Time Willard will be facing a different stratosphere of competition in the Haskell Stakes, and it’s difficult to see him making any impression in the race. Paco Lopez, a perennial top jockey at Monmouth Park, will be aboard One Time Willard Saturday.
4. Howling Time (10-1)
Jockey: Joe Talamo
Trainer: Dale Romans
Owners: Albaugh Family Stables
Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $332,595
Earnings per start: $47,514
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104
Pedigree: Not This Time – Werewolf, by Arch
Color: Dark bay or brown
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Howling Time saw his early momentum on the Triple Crown trail vanish completely during the winter and spring, but encouragingly this colt has rounded back into form over his two most recent races. He’s a longshot win candidate in the Haskell, even with a short field, but he could impact the race from a pace perspective and has a chance to fill out the exacta with a peak effort. After winning his first two races last fall at Churchill Downs, including the listed Street Sense Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, Howling Time finished a well-beaten fifth, ninth, and eighth in three Kentucky Derby preps from November through April. His connections wisely avoided a start in the Preakness Stakes and instead Howling Time got back on the winning track by taking a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claimer at Churchill on May 21, leading at every point of call on a sloppy track. He then set a pressured pace in the 1/16-mile Matt Winn Stakes June 12 at Churchill and was all out in the stretch trying to ward off a challenge from Cyberknife before yielding by a nose. Howling Time is 3-for-4 under the Twin Spires and 0-for-3 elsewhere, which is an obvious concern, but he’s been training well since the Matt Winn and has a solid 104 Equibase Speed Figure earned in that race to build on. Look for jockey Joe Talamo to send his mount out of the gate and try to clear the field before the first turn in a bid for a front-running upset.
5. King of Hollywood (30-1)
Jockey: Nik Juarez
Trainer: Gregory Sacco
Owners: Monmouth Stud and Pinnacle Racing Team
Career record: 13 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $93,313
Earnings per start: $7,178
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90
Pedigree: Palace Malice – Hollywood Miss, by Second in Command
Running style: Stalker/closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: It took 10 starts for this son of 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice to break his maiden, as he competed mainly on turf as a 2-year-old with no success and transitioned to dirt and synthetic racing earlier this year. He finally broke through with a 2 ½-length win in a one-mile maiden claiming race at Aqueduct in February. Trainer Gregory Sacco moved him up to stakes company in the listed Rushaway Stakes, held at 1 1/16 miles on Turfway Park’s Tapeta Footings surface, but he finished a well-beaten ninth after a rough start. Shipped to Monmouth, he came back to win a one-mile allowance race on May 29 by 4 ¾ lengths (earning a career-best 90 Equibase Speed Figure) and was then directed back to a stakes try in the 1 1/16-mile TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, where he finished last of seven, 20 lengths behind winner Home Brew. This colt has learned how to reach the winner’s circle in recent months but he appears by all measures to be outclassed against the Haskell field.
6. White Abarrio (5-1)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Owners: C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable
Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third
Career earnings: $923,650
Earnings per start: $131,950
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Pedigree: Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief
Color: Gray or roan
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: The projected race shape of Saturday’s Haskell could benefit this off-the-pace runner, who bounced back from a no-show in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to run very well when finishing second by length to Tawny Port in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 25. White Abarrio had previously emerged as the leading Kentucky Derby contender in South Florida with sharp wins in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes and 1 1/8-mile Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa – both held at Gulfstream Park – but he was never in contention May 7 at Churchill Downs, finishing 16th of 20. White Abarrio earned a 106 Equibase Speed Figure in the Ohio Derby, more in line with his previous form, and that makes him a must-use exacta and trifecta filler in the Haskell. Look for jockey Joel Rosario, riding White Abarrio for the first time, to position this striking gray colt off of the leaders – possibly in last – through the backstretch before giving him his cue early on the far turn. If the pace is fast enough, he’s got a shot at pulling the upset, although his 4-for-4 record at Gulfstream versus 0-for-3 elsewhere is definitely a concern.
7. Jack Christopher (3-2)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Chad Brown
Owners: Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud, and Peter Brant
Career record: 4 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $841,400
Earnings per start: $210,350
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Pedigree: Munnings – Rushin No Blushin, by Half Ours
Running style: Press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This supremely talented colt has an opportunity to wrest control of a wide-open 3-year-old division if he can pass the two-turn test in Saturday’s Haskell. After a lengthy absence from the track, Jack Christopher has come back with a vengeance this year, vindicating the promise he showed in fall 2021 when he won both of his starts, including the prestigious Champagne Stakes going a one-turn mile. He missed the Kentucky Derby prep season with a shin injury, and returned on the May 7 Derby undercard at Churchill Downs to win the one-turn Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG&E and KU by 3 ¾ lengths. Trainer Chad Brown then brought Jack Christopher back in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Mohegan Sun on the June 11 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets undercard at Belmont Park and he was even more impressive, rolling to a 10-length win while hand-ridden by Jose Ortiz. He earned a 108 Equibase Speed Figure in the Woody Stephens, best in the Haskell field. The only question remaining for him is distance: his sire Munnings was a sprinter, and his dam’s (mother’s) pedigree is filled with horses that did their best running at a mile or shorter, including multiple Grade 1 winner and solid sire Street Boss. Based on how he looked visually in his two 2022 starts, Jack Christopher appears more than capable at extending his speed another eighth of a mile past his previous limit. He’ll face a tough field, including another contender that’s flashed breathtaking talent in Taiba, but Jack Christopher shapes up as the most likely Haskell winner based on past performance. Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz teamed up to win the 2016 Haskell with Good Magic. Members of the Coolmore Stud group owned 2013 Haskell victor Verrazano and 2004 winner Lion Heart.
8. Benevengo (20-1)
Jockey: Angel Rodriguez
Trainer: Jesus Cruz
Owners: Wasabi Ventures Stables
Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $65,600
Earnings per start: $16,400
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99
Pedigree: Gormley – On High Alert, by Medaglia d’Oro
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This local horse is one of the Haskell longshots, drawing the far outside post for Saturday’s race. Benevengo made his first two starts at Tampa Bay Downs in early 2022 and was claimed out of his debut – a 9 ½-length win in a 6 ½-furlong sprint – by his current connections. He came back to win a six-furlong race in March and was then moved up to stakes company in the one-mile and 70-yard Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth on May 14. In the Long Branch, Benevengo stalked the pace and was shuffled back on the far turn en route to a fourth-place finish, eight lengths behind winner Dash Attack. Benevengo then came back to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Monmouth by 3 ½ lengths on June 24, earning a career-best 99 Equibase Speed Figure. This colt is obviously talented and competitive, but he’s taking a huge class hike in the Haskell. Best case scenario: he improves, a couple of favorites underperform, and he spices up the trifecta at a price.