Sarcasm about the 7-horse field competing in a $1 million Grade 1 race aside, you can't knock Monmouth Park at all for much else from a wagering proposition, having put together an outstanding 14-race card in the face of Covid-19 restrictions, including an apparent quarantine of jockey Mike Smith, coming from California to ride 4-5 favorite Authentic for trainer Bob Baffert.
Management's been criticized by many on social media for selling a select number of $100-$150 tickets for parking, admission and a baseball cap, but candidly, the Haskell field isn't worth seeing in person, and that money can be better spent watching the action on TV and betting online. Plus as a capitalist I can see why Monmouth would use its capacity allowance (about 2,000) to offset its expenses and a completely rich purse.
As usual, I'll provide unsolicited thoughts on each Haskell horse -- in order of preference -- and share some other wagering ideas for the late Pick 5 sequence (Races 10-14).
Paging Dr Post!
#1, Dr Post (5-2): Top selection and probably one of two horses that can win. This isn't a pound-the-table win bet for me, unless he overlays to 7-2, but Dr Post is a completely logical second fiddle to Authentic after a runner-up to Tiz the Law in the Belmont on June 20. If Dr Post loses, it won't be for a lack of trying. Even if you're not betting the Haskell, watch how this guy runs. In each of his past three starts, he broke from the gate decently but looked lazy at times, prompting his jockey to remind him with the whip about two-thirds of the way through the race. And each time he responded slowly but surely, with a going-away victory in a $75,000 stake at Gulfstream Park in late April and stretching out another sixteenth of a mile and running faster in the Belmont. Trainer Todd Pletcher is as exciting to listen to as watching paint dry, but is simply one of the best at placing his horses in winnable spots. In the traditional Derby chase, Dr Post wouldn't have been ready for top competition. Nor rushed. But from what I've seen so far, Dr Post has gradually matured and I think gets a perfect ground-saving trip along the rail and catches Authentic from off the pace. Pass as a win bet at 5-2 or 2-1 odds, but I'll suggest for the top spot of trifecta and superfecta tickets, as well as the Pick 5.
#2, Authentic (4-5): Bob Baffert knows a few things about Max's Hot Dogs...and, oh, winning the Haskell. He's dominated this race, winning a record eight times, and Authentic is in the mold of many other Baffert runners. Speed. Speed. More Speed. There's no mystery about Authentic's tactic. He'll jump to the front and look to make his six foes eat dust. I have a few concerns, however, beyond Baffert's injury-plagued Derby hopefuls and medications violations at Oaklawn Park. After gaudy wins in short-sized fields in the Grade 3 Sham and Grade 2 San Felipe -- before Covid-19 ended a lot of things, including the traditional Triple Crown trail via the Kentucky Derby (now Sept. 5) -- Authentic finished a fading second to Honor A.P. in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on June 6. He started oddly, almost a step slow, and never got to dictate terms. Authentic lost by almost three lengths, and though the speed figure he earned is best of the Haskell bunch, visually there was something amiss. I'm also mildly concerned about shipping the horse east for his first race outside of California. Granted, Saturday's field is bad, but my call is that a few of the egregious long-shots will gun for the lead with Authentic, so any early stumble or need to carve out ridiculous fractions puts him at a disadvantage and benefits Dr Post. I'll use Authentic on one "defensive" trifecta ticket, but discourage win-place-show bets for lack of value. Watch to see if "bridge-jumpers" overload the show pool here, and whether you can capitalize on another horse you like for a sizable show wager.
#3, Jesus' Team (15-1): Pronounced "Hey Zeus's" Team. I mean, who wouldn't want to align with Jesus, right?! But from a racing sense, he's my third choice. Now, I think he's got maybe a 0.05% chance of winning, but for my money is absolutely worth using "underneath" in wagers. I wanted to give NY Traffic the nod as third-best, but sorta feel like that guy's hit his ceiling and is more of a miler, so the extra one-eighth of a mile is a detriment to him. Jesus' Team, on the other hand, has matured since shifting to trainer Jose D'Angelo's barn. Certainly not a household-name conditioner, but in Jesus' past two starts -- a win and a second -- he's shown both quickness from the starting gate and, vs. half-decent $100,000 optional claiming company on June 10, the ability to settle and stalk the front-runners. Candidly I think he's got one of my least preferred riders, but I believe this horse is game enough to keep running late, probably maxing out in second place if something goes amiss with Authentic, and third or fourth otherwise, but probably way behind the winner.
#7, NY Traffic (7-2): Because the next three horses I'm about to discuss are God awful, I think NY Traffic may be 2-1 or 5-2 when all's said and done, which to me is too short for a win bet for a hanger. My hope as a Dr Post backer is that NY Traffic goes off as second choice after two seconds and a third in three Grade 2-3 races and bettors go gaga over local jockey Paco Lopez, a speed connoisseur getting his second-straight turn with a speed horse. What you want to see if backing NY Traffic is a duel with Authentic where the latter throws in the towel, and the others sorta run in place. As a Dr Post backer that's also what I want to see, save for the part about NY Traffic making it to the finish line first. I just think Dr Post has more will than NY Traffic, who to me looks more like a 7-furlong to 1-mile horse. In each of his past three races -- granted, vs. stout competition -- he languished late. Strictly an underneath horse on my tickets, save for one small-money, defensive Pick 5 "backup" ticket. Will be bet like a win contender, but I don't think is good enough.
#6, Lebda (20-1): The first of three runners I believe will be more than 30-1 once the starting gate opens. One game try as a two-year old, finishing third in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs last September, and two minor stakes wins at winter track Laurel Park, but not fast enough. May be in the mix for 50-60% of the race before fading, much as he was gassed in three attempts vs. Grade 3 company (two levels below Saturday's classification). Pass.
#4, Ancient Warrior (20-1): A three-quarter mile sprinter, not a classic-distance horse. Summoning the spirit of every ancient warrior ever is needed for this guy to have a chance. What I'm hoping for as a Dr Post backer is Ancient Warrior guns for the front, presses Authentic, Lebda and NY Traffic to complete the first half-mile in ~45 seconds and carries the latter two wide into the backstretch. Optimally, Jesus' Team will sit just behind them, and Dr Post in sixth, riding the rail unencumbered until the far turn. If that happens, it'll be a job well done for a horse who'll be 50-1, helping to burn out the front-runners so Dr Post can gun 'em all down late. Pass.
#5 Fame to Famous (30-1): A turf horse with one lifetime win in eight tries for an 0-for-29 trainer in 2020, and whose claim to fame to this point is finishing fourth to a 73-1 shot on July 4 on the grass at Monmouth Park. A $12,500 check and participation medal awaits this poor guy, who may go off more than 100-1. Just don't see it.
Probable Haskell-Specific Wagers
- $5 trifecta 1 with 2, 3 with 2, 3 = $10
- $2 trifecta 2 with 3 with 1, 6 7 = $6
- $1 trifecta 1 with ALL with 3 = $5
- $3 superfecta 1-2-3-7
- $2 superfecta 1-2-7-3
Late Pick 5 Sequence Ideas
The all-stakes Race 10-14 Pick 5 is stellar, and I have two stronger opinions beyond the Haskell, and both horses are 9-2 on the morning line, so there's value -- Global Campaign (#1, Race 10) and Dubini (#5, Race 13). A little on each race, with my probably Pick 5 tickets.
- 50-cent Pick 5: 1 with 1, 2, 5, 9 with 1 with 5 with 1, 2, 5, 8, 11 = $10
- 50-cent Pick 5: 4, 8 with 2 with 1 with 5, 9, 10, 11 with 11 = $4
- 50-cent Pick 5: 1 with 1, 2, 9 with 2, 7 with 5 with 1, 2, 5, 11 = $12
- 50-cent Pick 5: 8 with 1, 2, 9 with 2 with 5, 9, 10, 11 with 11 = $6