Pardon my cynicism/sarcasm and deviating from my writing focus on qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship, but as a fan who wants the thoroughbred sport to thrive, today's unveiling of the field for Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational made my stomach churn and got me thinking -- where can I sign up for a 1-in-6 shot at winning $600k?!
Six horses are in Sunday's Haskell, including two Grade 1 stakes winners (Dullahan and Gemologist), a Grade 3 winner (Nonios) and three others who've yet to win outside of allowance company, including one, Handsome Mike, who has yet to win since breaking his maiden in October 2011.
I consider the latter (the same connections as Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another) akin to billing tickets for a Michael Jackson concert, only to show up and find Tito is performing solo instead.
|Jermaine to our Haskell thoughts|
Of course the glut of high-purse, small-fielded stakes races plays right into any connections' interests, and I am uncertain (outside of money) of the motivations of owners. But how else could you explain:
- Hansen, arguably the best three-year-old left standing in this year's injury-riddled crop, taking the easy money, winning such prestigious races as the Iowa Derby and pointing to the West Virginia Derby.
- Four of the six in Sunday's Haskell (Nonios, Paynter, Gemologist and Handsome Mike) have California connections and scant ties to New Jersey racing, while a fifth (Steelcase) has Canadian connections and maiden and allowance-optional claiming wins on his less-than-stellar Grade 1 resume, and Handsome Mike hasn't won in 5-6 tries since breaking his maiden.
- A middling field of eight, count 'em, eight, running for $600k in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy...oh, by the way, a day before what should be considered a significant Grade 1 event but clearly is not. Yeah, I know the Jim Dandy is a major prep for the Travers Stakes and NYRA is a competitor, but still...Grade 2 isn't Grade 1, IMO. Opting for Jim Dandy (and a 20-to-1 line) is vexing.