Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. won’t clash before the Sep. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1), but Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Stakes (G1) could be the next-best thing. Authentic, runner-up to Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and Dr Post, best of the rest behind Tiz the Law in the Belmont S. (G1), are set to square off at Monmouth Park.
This year’s Haskell has a different flavor, thanks to the pandemic upending the usual racing calendar. Instead of being a lucrative spot after the Triple Crown, the 1 1/8-mile test is now a scoring race for the postponed Kentucky Derby worth points on the 100-40-20-10 scale.
The Haskell remains a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), with an added sweetener. Monmouth is offering a $1 million bonus if a horse can sweep the Haskell, Kentucky Derby, and Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Nov. 7.
Authentic will try to extend Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s record number of Haskell wins to nine. It’s been five years since his eighth victory, courtesy of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015). Although Authentic could not withstand the powerful finish of Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby, he was previously unbeaten in his first three starts including the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3). The Into Mischief colt has high-class speed that can be dangerous, but with some mental quirks.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Dr Post, a well-regarded juvenile who was shelved after one start in 2019, has been making up for lost time this season. Progressing from his Gulfstream maiden score, the son of Quality Road overcame a rough trip in his stakes and two-turn debut in the Unbridled S., and lifted his game again in the Belmont.
Fountain of Youth (G2) romper Ete Indien also represents the Tiz the Law form, having finished second in his Holy Bull (G3) and third in the Florida Derby (G1). He was last seen finishing fourth in the Gulfstream allowance won by stablemate Sole Volante, but trainer Patrick Biancone has been pointing him to the Jersey Shore for some time. As another speed factor, Ete Indien prevents Authentic from having things his own way up front.
So does the similarly styled Ny Traffic, runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Matt Winn (G3) in his past two. Other Haskell probables are Sonneman, who’d shown real promise before a distant second in a two-runner Easy Goer at Belmont; multiple Laurel stakes scorer Lebda, a disappointing sixth in the Ohio Derby (G3); former claimer Jesus’ Team, second in Sole Volante’s aforementioned allowance at 12-1; Fame to Famous, who’s spent more time on turf; and Ancient Warrior, who would be stretching out beyond a sprint and tackling stakes company for the first time.
Modernist and Mystic Guide, both listed as possible for the Haskell, have been entered in Thursday’s Peter Pan (G3) on opening day at Saratoga.
The banner Haskell Day card also features the $300,000 United Nations (G1), $150,000 Matchmaker (G3), and $75,000 Wolf Hill on turf as well as the $300,000 Monmouth Cup (G2) and $250,000 Molly Pitcher (G3) on the main track.