SARATOGA SPRINGS – Good Magic will take his first step in establishing himself as the best 3-year-old still in training on Sunday in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
A spirited group of seven 3-year-olds will assemble Sunday afternoon in Oceanside, N.J. with hopes of moving forward in a division that can already be conceded to retired Triple Crown victor Justify.
The Derby runner-up took his best shot at the Triple Crown winner at Pimlico in a riveting duel that ended up cooking the son of Curlin to a fourth-place finish. Trainer Chad Brown finished second, fourth and second in the three Triple Crown races and looks to add a second Grade 1 win to Good Magic’s resume.
Several other horses that competed on the Derby trail, including Lone Sailor and Bravazo, will return in the Haskell.
The 1 1/8-mile race is Race 12 on Monmouth’s signature day and will go to post at 5:45 p.m. The race will be televised nationally on NBC (Ch. 2) in an hour-long broadcast from 5-6 p.m. The winner will receive an automatic berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Let’s take a look at the competitors (post position, trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parentheses):
1 – Lone Sailor (Amoss, Bravo, 5-1). Ran in the first two legs of the Triple Crown with two different jockeys and local hero Jersey Joe Bravo gets the call in the Haskell. Trainer Amoss has a Buffalo connection, serving as Ralph Wilson’s trainer for many years. Son of Majestic Warrior was just nosed out of the 9-furlong Ohio Derby by Core Beliefs in his last outing. Only career win was in the slop at Saratoga where he broke his maiden. Lone Sailor ships to Monmouth off of a bullet half-mile workout in 46.56 at the Spa on July 16. If you like Core Beliefs, you have to like Lone Sailor.
2 – Navy Commander (Reid Jr., Arroyo, 12-1). The 1-2 exacta should be a hunch play for any midshipman from Annapolis. Winner of the local prep race enters deep waters after two straight wins and will be up against it on Sunday. The gelding has raced at five different tracks over his 11-race career. Should be on the lead early from the inside post. Looking elsewhere.
3 – Roaming Union (Breen, Jimenez, 10-1). This son of Union Rags will run for local Jersey connections that won the 2011 Belmont with Ruler on Ice. Finished second in the non-graded Pegasus back in mid-June by a neck after a solid allowance race. It took this colt six races to break his maiden and unlikely he’ll be anywhere near the winner’s circle in the Haskell.
4 – Core Beliefs (Eurton, Prat, 4-1). West coast shipper finished second in the Peter Pan after stumbling at the break and then moved forward with a win in the Ohio Derby over Lone Sailor. The son of Quality Road appears to be moving in the right direction and could challenge Good Magic late.
5 – Bravazo (Lukas, Saez, 3-1). The only horse other than Justify to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown. The son of Awesome Again was the closest horse to beat the Triple Crown winner when he was flying late in the Preakness. This shortening in distance should suit him fine and has some solid efforts on his worktab to support backing him Sunday. Amazingly, Lukas has only won one Haskell in his career in 1995 with Serena’s Song. Classy colt should be in the mix. Has the speed to work out a good trip from this spot.
6 – Good Magic (Brown, Ortiz, 6-5). The $1 million Curlin colt out of a Hard Spun mare has only missed the board in seven career races, that one time was when he lost a photo for third in the Preakness. His connections captured the 2017 trainer and jockey Eclipse Awards, respectively. He fought valiantly that day and comes into the Haskell well-rested and tuned up by Brown. His worktab suggests that he is fit and ready to go. The morning line favorite will likely sit off Navy Commander and Bravazo in a stalking trip and make his move down the stretch. Win candidate.
7 – Golden Brown (McBurney, Rendon, 15-1). Son of Offlee Wild has three wins and three placings in seven career races. He won the Grade 3 Kent on the Delaware Park turf propelling him into the Haskell. He returns to dirt where he won an allowance in May over the Monmouth surface. Seems to be a bit overmatched and returning to dirt after two straight successful turf outings is a head scratcher. Passing.
Outlook: Speed rules at Monmouth and we’ll take the horses that are most likely to have the stamina to carry through the wire with last year’s Juvenile winner on top.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Good Magic; 2 – Core Beliefs; 3 – Bravazo; 4 – Lone Sailor
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.