The Triple Crown season may be over, but the Grade 1 2014 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park offers a horse race of reminiscent quality in Long Branch, New Jersey.
Kentucky Oaks champion Untapable enters this elite field of nine contenders as the 2-1 morning-line favorite, but there are plenty of capable contenders to challenge the filly for the winner's circle. Two runners apiece from both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes headline what ought to be an exceptional showcase.
Even with so many strong entrants, though, Untapable is heralded as the horse to beat. This nine-furlong jaunt ought to be a thriller no matter how it plays out.
Here is a look at the post positions, odds and purse information for Sunday's richest invitational in American horse racing, along with predictions for which horses will finish in the money.
Note: Statistics and results are courtesy of Equibase.com.
|1||Encryption||Paco Lopez||Kelly Breen||20-1|
|2||Bayern||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||5-2|
|3||Albano||Kerwin Clark||Larry Jones||6-1|
|4||Irish You Well||Jose Lezcano||Wayne Catalano||12-1|
|5||Just Call Kenny||Joe Bravo||Pat McBurney||10-1|
|6||Social Inclusion||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Manuel Azpurua||8-1|
|7||Untapable||Rosie Napravnik||Steve Asmussen||2-1|
|8||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||10-1|
|9||Medal Count||Robbie Albarado||Dave Romans||8-1|
When: Sunday, July 27 (post time 5:44 p.m. ET)
Where: Monmouth Park in Long Branch, New Jersey
Distance: 1 1/8 miles (nine furlongs)
Predictions for Win, Place and Show
Win: Bayern (5-2)
Experienced jockey Martin Garcia will be getting the mount for the No. 2 favorite. Bayern may be counted out after his ninth-place finish out of 10 Preakness Stakes entries. However, traffic issues were to blame more than anything.
The horse's jockey in that race was also Rosie Napravnik, who developed into one of the most prominent modern jockeys at Pimlico. There is a significant amount of pressure on her to break through with a winner there, something Garcia won't have to deal with at Monmouth Park.
Bayern bounced back in his last start at Belmont Park, riding to victory at the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes. In six career races, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's horse has three wins and finished outside the money only at this year's Preakness.
Ron Flatter of RSN Racing & Sport recorded what Baffert had to say regarding Bayern's chances of finishing first:
Given that Bayern couldn't shake traffic in a similar-sized Preakness field, look for Garcia to push the pace early and perhaps push for a wire-to-wire triumph. If that doesn't happen, Bayern has the speed to get out of the gates quickly and remain near the lead until the final straightaway.
Bayern will have no choice but to start fast, since he's closest to the rail without being on it in post No. 2.
It figures to be a photo finish, but Bayern's preparation by way of the legendary Baffert will give him the edge in the end.
Place: Untapable (2-1)
Napravnik was in the irons when Untapable won the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, so she knows how to get it done aboard the filly in a marquee race.
Al Shaqab Racing advisor Bradley Weisbord feels Untapable is a great addition to the stacked, speedy field, but statistics guru Gary Dougherty outlines the modest history of past filly winners:
Untapable running against the boys in the Haskell is exactly what racing needs. Run her against the best boys, show her class. #superstar— Bradley Weisbord (@BradWeisbord) July 14, 2014
HASKELL Untapable to face the boys! 2009-Rachel Alexandra won by 6 over Summer Bird 1995-Serena's Song by 3/4 over Pyramid Peak— Racing Stats & Info (@GaryDougherty) July 14, 2014
A runner-up result is a realistic expectation, though, considering the odds between Untapable and Bayern are separated by such a slim margin. In fact, if the post position draw had shaken out differently, Bayern might be the pre-race favorite.
There is no denying Untapable is in a prime slot to succeed at No. 7. It's also hard to argue with her resume this season, which features four wins in as many starts by a combined 31 lengths, per Jennie Rees of the Courier-Journal.
Untapable has tapped out just about all of her potential. It will take an extraordinary effort to take down a strong field of formidable male horses. If she manages to do so, the dominating storyline would almost write itself.
Show: Wildcat Red (10-1)
The same holds true for Wildcat Red as it does with Bayern, insofar as that Wildcat Red has only finished out of the money once in six starts. That came at a Triple Crown race in the Kentucky Derby, where he placed 18th.
One poor outing on one of the biggest stages shouldn't count too much against Wildcat Red, considering he bounced back in his next start—just as Bayern did—with a winning ride at Gulfstream Park.
Redemption was had for Wildcat Red to say the least in the Quality Road Stakes, where he exploded to first place by a whopping 10 1/4 lengths.
The Daily Racing Form's Jim Dunleavy mused recently that Wildcat Red could be the one setting the ambitious pace even with a ton of speed surrounding him from the No. 8 post:
Who will win the 2014 Haskell Invitational?
If Wildcat Red gets enough momentum in the early going, he has the talent to run away. However, the cream of the crop should rise to the top in this one, leading to Wildcat Red fading over the final furlong or so, settling for a strong finish in the money.
Predicting the top three finishers for the 2014 Haskell Invitational is difficult, because just about any horse in the field is capable of rising to the occasion. All of the projected in-the-money horses have something to prove, though.
In the case of Bayern and Wildcat Red, their redemption stories from disappointing Triple Crown trips are fairly obvious. There's a certain amount of pride there for their connections to improve, more accurately showing off their horses' talents.
What will be most interesting is whether Untapable can stick it to the men—and with Napravnik aboard to boot. All of those potential developments and the other contenders eager to perform well should combine to create a compelling 2014 Haskell Invitational.