Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Saturday’s $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park and other major weekend developments:
GOLDEN MOMENT: Veteran owner Al Gold was ecstatic after Cyberknife held off Taiba by a head in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell while setting stakes and track records with a sizzling time of 1:46.24. The eye-popping victory yielded a fees-paid berth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Keeneland Race Course. On top of all of that, Gold lived in nearby Ocean Township for more than 35 years. “I started betting races when I was a kid and owned horses for 40 years,” he noted. “You always have fantasies. You want to win the Kentucky Derby, all the big races. But this was one of the ones I really wanted to win, and we’re on our way to the Breeders’ Cup now.”
AT THE READY: Most Thoroughbreds have one big move in them that the jockey must time exactly in order to win. Not Cyberknife, now a two-time Grade 1 winner after adding the Haskell to the Arkansas Derby. He was handy and explosive for jockey Florent Geroux in the Haskell – and that made the difference. “He has a turn of foot like a turf horse on the dirt,” Geroux said. “He can make several moves in the race. We knew that before the race. That’s why I used him a little bit to take good position at the half mile. From there I stayed quiet until it was time to go.” Those qualities should make newly-minted millionaire Cyberknife dangerous in the Aug. 27 Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
BREAKING THROUGH: After knocking on the door to Grade 1 success, 4-year-old Adhamo broke through when he won the $600,000 United Nations at Monmouth. In his previous two starts, Adhamo had finished third in the May 7 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs and placed second in the June 11 Resorts World Casino Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park. “He’s been a little unlucky this year,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He’s been a little bit of a work in progress. I’m still trying to figure out what his best distance is and ground and such.” Jockey Flavien Prat worked out an ideal trip for Adhamo in the United Nations.
HOT, HOT, HOT: Brown and Prat combined for four consecutive graded-stakes victories on the Haskell undercard, culminating in Adhamo’s triumph, and Brown finished with five wins overall to match Todd Pletcher’s record total in 2016. The other stakes victories for Brown and Prat were produced by Highly Motivated in the $400,000 Monmouth Cup Stakes, Search Results in the $400,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes and Lemista in the WinStar Matchmaker Stakes. It was the first win in North America for Lemista.
MISMATCH: The filly Nest, after being a runner-up to Mo Donegal in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, roared to the front of her division in routing Secret Oath by 12 ¼ lengths in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for trainer Todd Pletcher on Saturday at Saratoga. “We’ve run a lot of horses in the Belmont over the years, but we’ve never had one come out any better than she did,” said Pletcher. “She had great energy and she gained weight since that race. She gave us every indication she was ready to run back.” Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath will have to find a lot more in an expected rematch in the Aug. 20 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.