Cyberknife Sets Track Record with Thrilling Haskell Win

Cyberknife Sets Track Record with Thrilling Haskell Win

For the better part of 50 years, Al Gold traveled from his New Jersey home to Monmouth Park a countless amount of times.

He saw more editions of the TVG.com Haskell Stakes in the course of his 66 years on this earth than he can remember.

So, when he bought his first horse about 15 years ago, he had some wild dreams about winning the Haskell. He realized however, from all his years of gambling, that dreams and reality do not often converge.

Yet they did on July 23.

Cyberknife, the son of Gun Runner named for a surgical tool that rid Gold’s body of prostate cancer, scripted a new chapter in Gold’s relationship with Monmouth Park – the track he calls his home away from home – as he moved up strongly along the rail in the stretch and surged to a head victory over Bob Baffert-trained Taiba in $1,017,500 Haskell. In doing so, he set a track record time of 1:46.24 for 1 1/8 miles.

“I have a lot of great memories here and this is the best horse I’ve ever had. It’s his second Grade 1,” said Gold, who races under the banner of Gold Square and now lives in Florida and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “It’s a special feeling. There are no words to describe it.”

With 7-10 favorite Jack Christopher weakening in the final furlong and finishing third, the back-to-back Haskell victories for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux (who won a year ago via disqualification with Mandaloun) added a little more confusion to a 3-year-old division that has an 80.80-1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner in Rich Strike, a Preakness Stakes winner in Early Voting who will run July 30 in the Jim Dandy Stakes, and a Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner in Mo Donegal who is sidelined and will miss the Breeders’ Cup due to bone bruising.

Now you can add Cyberknife to that mix of title contenders. The colt won the Arkansas Derby to give Gold his initial Grade 1 win as an owner. Up next is a van ride to Saratoga Race Course, where the chestnut colt is expected to run in the Aug. 27 Runhappy Travers Stakes, which promises to have a huge say in who will be crowned the champion 3-year-old male.

“He has a very nice race record, and if he continues to move forward, he’ll be a contender for champion 3-year-old,” Cox said about a 3-year-old who was 18th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve but won the Matt Winn Stakes in his last start. “He has some work to do, but hopefully he’ll be a horse that has his name in the hat at the end of the year. I’ll think he can get the mile-and-a-quarter (the Travers distance).”

The late summer and fall classics will hold a special meaning for Cyberknife as he stands to collect a $1 million bonus from BetMakers if he can add a victory in both the Travers and the Nov. 5 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. The winner of five of nine starts with earnings of $1,596,520, Cyberknife secured a free spot in the Classic through Saturday’s victory via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.

Jack Christopher and his trainer Chad Brown were the centers of attention as the eight starters entered the gate. Brown had already matched Todd Pletcher’s feat on the 2016 Haskell card with five wins and was bidding for a sixth and a sweep of Monmouth’s five graded stakes with an undefeated heavy favorite who was making his two-turn debut.

After a half-mile in :46.96, Jack Christopher was second by a length behind 56-1 shot Benevengo. Midway on the turn, after six furlongs in 1:09.93, Jack Christopher and Jose Ortiz made their move and grabbed a short lead over Howling Time at the quarter pole. Yet behind them, both Cyberknife and Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba were revving up.

As Howling Wolf dropped back to fourth, Cyberknife moved alongside Jack Christopher from the inside and Taiba from the outside in mid-stretch. The favorite could not keep pace in the final furlong, and the battle boiled down to Cyberknife and Taiba straining to reach the wire first, with Cyberknife getting the nod as the 7.80-1 fourth choice.

“I had a lot of confidence in this horse,” Geroux said. “I had a lot of horse underneath me. He has a turn of foot like a turf horse on dirt.”

Taiba, ridden by Mike Smith, made his first start since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, and was reunited with Baffert, who returned to his stable earlier this month after serving a 90-day suspension for Medina Spirit’s drug violation and disqualification in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

“He’s still learning,” Smith said about the son of Gun Runner who made his fourth career start Saturday. “I had him inside and I couldn’t get him running down there for nothing, so I had to swing him outside and then he ran a great race. I thought I was going to win.”

If Taiba moves on to the Travers, he will need a different trainer as Baffert is suspended from racing at New York Racing Association tracks until January.

For Jack Christopher, who was two lengths behind Taiba and had never raced beyond a mile until Saturday, the Aug. 27 seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga looms as the next target.

“I felt very, very good turning for home,” Brown said after his 3-year-old’s first loss in five starts. “I thought it was a beautiful trip but at the end of the day, I thought he set fair fractions. It’s pretty simple we have to cut him back. Hats off the to the winner. He looked the part of a real threat the entire race.”

Pick 4
2-3-1-1

2-3-1-1

$142

Superfecta
1-2-7-4

1-2-7-4

$23

Pick 4
2-3-1-1

2-3-1-1

$142

Superfecta
1-2-7-4

1-2-7-4

$23