The $1 million Haskell Stakes, annually one of the most important 3-year-old races in the nation, will be contested this Saturday (July 23). This year’s renewal of the 1 1/8-mile affair poses a number of tantalizing questions, such as:
--Will two-time Grade I winner Jack Christopher be able to keep his unblemished record intact?
--Can fellow Grade I winner Taiba rebound from his Kentucky Derby setback and increase Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s record total of Haskell victories to 10?
--Is the Haskell winner going be one of the other two Grade I winners in field, Cyberknife or White Abarrio?
--Will Howling Time make a lot of noise in his Grade I debut by continuing his 2022 upward trajectory in the Beyer Speed Figure department (58, 66, 90, 94)?
--Can Benevengo, One Time Willard or King of Hollywood pull off an upset?
One of the Haskell’s recent victors, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, ranks high on my newly created list of the Top 100 racehorses of the 21st century so far to have won in North America. The list is unveiled for the first time later in this Xpressbet.om column/blog/article.
As for this year’s Haskell, Jack Christopher is going to be very tough to beat if he runs anything like he did in the Grade I Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park on June 11. But he is not the morning-line favorite.
Longtime Monmouth Park oddsmaker Brad Thomas has installed Taiba as a slight 7-5 favorite on the morning line over 3-2 Taiba. White Abarrio is 5-1. Cyberknife is 6-1. All others are 10-1 or higher.
I expect Jack Christopher to be the betting favorite when the Haskell field breaks from the gate.
Jack Christopher drew off through the stretch in grand style to win the seven-furlong Woody Stephens by a big margin. Trained by Chad Brown, the Kentucky-bred Munnings colt is two for two this year after going two for two last year.
When kicking off his career in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at the 2021 Saratoga meet, Jack Christopher won by 8 3/4 lengths. That was followed by a 2 3/4-length triumph in Belmont Park’s Grade I Champagne Stakes at one mile.
In his 2022 debut, Jack Christopher won Churchill Downs’ Grade II Pat Day Mile by 3 3/4 lengths. He then registered a 10-length victory in the Woody Stephens on June 11.
The Haskell will be the first time that Jack Christopher has been asked to race farther than one mile.
Taiba was my top pick in this year’s Kentucky Derby. He didn’t win it, finishing 12th in the field of 20.
I thought Taiba’s raw talent could overcome his inexperience and lack of a foundation on the first Saturday in May, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. As I wrote in my Kentucky Derby recap for Xpressbet.com, “Taiba did not look comfortable early when getting dirt in his face in a race for the first time.”
Taiba figures to appreciate running in an eight-horse field this Saturday as opposed to the 20-horse stampede in the Kentucky Derby.
A $1.7 million auction purchase, Taiba burst on the scene at Santa Anita on March 5. He won a six-furlong maiden special weight race with authority by 7 1/2 lengths.
One month later, Taiba won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles by 2 1/4 lengths. In the history of the Santa Anita Derby, which was first run in 1935, no other horse has won it having made just one previous career start.
Taiba took some serious Beyer Speed Figure power into the Run for the Roses. He recorded a 103 at first asking, followed by a 102 in the Santa Anita Derby.
I mentioned earlier that Jack Christopher will be very tough in the Haskell if he runs anything like he did in the Woody Stephens. He posted a 107 Beyer Speed Figure on that occasion. It’s the second-highest Beyer by a 3-year-old thus far this year, surpassed only by Charge It’s 111 for his 23-length tour de force in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 2.
Prior to Jack Christopher’s 107 Beyer, his top figure had been a 102 in the Champagne. Taiba’s 103 and 102 Beyers indicate to me that he certainly has the capability of winning the Haskell. Considering I thought enough of Taiba to make him my top pick in the Kentucky Derby, I’m inclined to stick with him in the Haskell rather than jump ship just because he didn’t do better in Louisville.
If Taiba does win this Saturday, he will become Baffert’s 10th Haskell winner, joining Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002, Roman Ruler in 2005, Lookin At Lucky in 2010, Coil in 2011, Paynter in 2012, Bayern in 2014, American Pharoah in 2015 and Authentic in 2020.
My selections for the Haskell are below:
2. Jack Christopher
4. White Abarrio
WILL KENTUCKY DERBY PRODUCE HASKELL WINNER?
While Rich Strike’s win at odds of 80-1 on May 7 ranks second in terms of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history (exceeded only by Donerail’s victory at 91-1 in 1913), this year’s edition of the 1 1/4-mile classic has turned out to be quite a productive race. It’s produced four next-out winners thus far. It will be increased to five if Taiba, Cyberknife or White Abarrio wins the Haskell.
The four next-out winners to date from this year’s Kentucky Derby are listed below:
Horse (Race, Date)
Mo Donegal (Grade I Belmont Stakes, June 11)
Cyberknife (Grade III Matt Winn Stakes, June 12)
Tawny Port (Grade III Ohio Derby, June 25)
Charge It (Grade III Dwyer Stakes, July 2)
TOP 100 RACEHORSES OF 21ST CENTURY SO FAR
Many moons ago for Xpressbet.com, I came up with my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th centuries. Through the years, I would adjust the list from time to time. The original inspiration was BloodHorse’s list of Top 100 racehorses of the 20th century.
As more racing took place from 2000 on, it became increasingly difficult to keep adding horses from this century to that Top 100. Consequently, last year I decided the time had come to make two lists, a Top 100 for the 20th century and a Top 25 for the 21st century so far.
The brilliant and undefeated Flightline is headed for Del Mar’s Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic on Sept. 3. Because Flightline is active, he is not yet eligible for inclusion on the 21st century list. But it certainly appears that he is well on his way to not only make the Top 100 of the 21st century so far, but to rank quite high on it.
Knowing that the day will come when I will have to determine where to rank Flightline on the Top 100, I thought this was as good a time as any to go ahead and expand my list. At first I was going to increase it to 50, then to 75. And then I thought, “Well, if I’m going to go to 75, I might as well make it a Top 100.”
After deciding to make it a Top 100, I must confess that it didn’t take long for me to realize that this project was taking a lot more work than I had expected. When I first came up with my Top 100 for the 20th century, I already had the BloodHorse’s Top 100 to work from. I had no such other list to consult this time.
I came up with a total of 153 candidates for this list. I had to whittle it down to 100. I will be honest: Many, if not all, of the 53 who didn’t make it onto the list easily could have made the cut. I just chose somebody else instead. And I imagine there are horses beyond those 53 who could have made the list. I just didn’t pick them.
I am sure that you would do this list very differently. That’s as it should be. There really is no right or wrong. This Top 100 is simply my opinion.
Also, this Top 100 is not set in stone. Heck, I’ve been constantly tweaking it for the past couple of weeks. And I am sure that I will be making many additional changes to it in the future.
And so, without further ado, my list of the Top 100 racehorses of the 21st century so far to have won in North America is below (active horses excluded):
1. American Pharoah*
4. Rachel Alexandra
8. Shared Belief
9. California Chrome
11. Gun Runner
13. Wise Dan
15. Point Given
19. Smarty Jones
22. Lava Man
23. Bricks and Mortar
24. Rags to Riches
25. Candy Ride
27. Pleasantly Perfect
28. Kona Gold
30. Saint Liam
32. Ouija Board
33. Knicks Go
36. Essential Quality
37. Afleet Alex
39. Monomoy Girl
40. Xtra Heat
41. Game On Dude
42. Mucho Macho Man
43. Empire Maker
46. I’ll Have Another
47. Roses in May
48. Blind Luck
49. Havre de Grace
50. Royal Delta
51. Big Brown
52. Lost in the Fog
53. Midnight Bisou
54. Cape Blanco
55. Gio Ponti
56. Lookin At Lucky
57. English Channel
58. Kitten’s Joy
59. Medaglia d’Oro
60. Tiz the Law
61. Midnight Lute
62. Street Sense
63. Discreet Cat
64. Lawyer Ron
68. Quality Road
69. Fantastic Light
71. High Chaparral
72. Lady Eli
73. Funny Cide
74. Rock Hard Ten
75. Raven’s Pass
76. Maximum Security
79. Unique Bella
80. Uncle Mo
81. City of Light
84. Groupie Doll
85. Lemon Drop Kid
89. Lido Palace
93. Fort Larned
94. Street Cry
95. Left Bank
96. Vino Rosso
97. Animal Kingdom
98. Roy H
99. Honor Code
100. Indian Blessing
*Triple Crown winner
TRAINERS WITH TWO OR MORE ON THE LIST
Bob Baffert is the leader, having trained 12 of the Top 100. Pletcher is third with eight. The late Bobby Frankel is third with seven. Steve Asmussen is next with five.
The list of those to have trained two or more of the horses on the Top 100 is below:
Bob Baffert (12): American Pharoah (ranked No. 1), Arrogate (3), Justify (7), Point Given (15), Authentic (34), Game On Dude (41), Congaree (44), Lookin At Lucky (56), Midnight Lute (61), Maximum Security (76), Gamine (78), Indian Blessing (100).
Todd Pletcher (8): Rags to Riches (24), English Channel (57), Lawyer Ron (64), Ashado (66), Quality Road (68), Uncle Mo (80), Left Bank (95), Vino Rosso (96).
Bobby Frankel (7): Ghostzapper (6), Intercontinental (31), Empire Maker (43), Medaglia d’Oro (59), Aptitude (87), Lido Palace (89), Sightseek (90).
Steve Asmussen (5): Rachel Alexandra (4), Curlin (5), Gun Runner (11), Midnight Bisou (53), Mitole (83).
Chad Brown (4): Bricks and Mortar (23), Flintshire (70), Lady Eli (72), Sistercharlie (92).
Jerry Hollendorfer (4): Shared Belief (8), Songbird (38), Blind Luck (48), Unique Bella (79).
Brad Cox (3): Knicks Go (33), Essential Quality (36), Monomoy Girl (39).
Richard Mandella (3): Beholder (16), Pleasantly Perfect (27), Rock Hard Ten (74).
Doug O’Neill (3): Lava Man (22), I’ll Have Another (46), Nyquist (65).
Rick Dutrow Jr. (2): Saint Liam (30), Big Brown (51).
John Gosden (2): Enable (17), Raven’s Pass (75).
D. Wayne Lukas (2): Azeri (21), Surfside (91).
Kiaran McLaughlin (2): Invasor (12), Frosted (77).
Aidan O’Brien (2): Cape Blanco (54), High Chaparral (71).
Dale Romans (2): Roses in May (47), Kitten’s Joy (58).
Saeed bin Suroor (2): Discreet Cat (63), Fantastic Light (69).
Barclay Tagg (2): Tiz the Law (60), Funny Cide (73).
SIRES WITH TWO OR MORE ON THE LIST
A.P. Indy is represented by five horses on the Top 100 to lead all sires.
The list of horses to have sired two or more of the horses on the Top 100 is below:
A.P. Indy (5): Bernardini (20), Rags to Riches (24), Mineshaft (29), Aptitude (87), Honor Code (99).
Elusive Quality (3): Smarty Jones (19), Quality Road (68), Raven’s Pass (75).
Smart Strike (3): Curlin (5), Lookin At Lucky (56), English Channel (57).
Tapit (3): Essential Quality (36), Frosted (77), Unique Bella (79).
Awesome Again (2): Ghostzapper (6), Game On Dude (41).
Candy Ride (2): Shared Belief (8), Gun Runner (11).
Distorted Humor (2): Funny Cide (73), Commentator (88).
El Prado (2): Kitten’s Joy (58), Medaglia d’Oro (59).
Indian Charlie (2): Uncle Mo (80), Indian Blessing (100).
Into Mischief (2): Authentic (34), Gamine (78).
Saint Ballado (2): Saint Liam (30), Ashado (66).
Street Cry (2): Zenyatta (2), Street Sense (62).
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
The Top 10 on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 324 Flightline (23)
2. 293 Life Is Good (5)
3. 261 Olympiad (5)
4. 212 Country Grammer (1)
5. 204 Jackie’s Warrior
6. 97 Clairiere
7. 88 Regal Glory
8. 66 Hot Rod Charlie
9. 60 Jack Christopher
10. 51 Letruska
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC RANKINGS
Below are this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 248 Flightline (22)
2. 211 Olympiad (4)
3. 198 Life Is Good (2)
4. 163 Country Grammer
5. 123 Hot Rod Charlie
6. 94 Epicenter
7. 71 Jack Christopher
8. 69 Early Voting
9. 51 Americanrevolution
10. 40 Zandon