As we enter a weekend full of awesome stakes races, no other race this weekend may be as important to the three-year-old division as the Haskell Invitational.
The field contains two of the Triple Crown race winners from this year in Shackleford and Ruler on Ice, in addition to potentially five or six others.
But why is the Haskell the race to watch for the Eclipse race when others, such as the Jim Dandy, are also running for three-year-olds? Let's take a look.
While the Jim Dandy is a good race and at the prestigious Saratoga, it only has half the purse of the Haskell.
Sure, some owners are more for the atmosphere of Saratoga, but the Haskell's purse is extremely tempting when it comes to choosing a race and helping to bring in a bigger, more competitive field.
The Haskell is definitely a bigger race than any offered this weekend or maybe even this summer, other than the Travers for 3-year-olds restricted races.
Putting a Haskell win on a colt's resume is definitely a good way to get breeders to look at him when he retires. It also gives him a chance to get on the Eclipse map.
The Haskell is the more traditional prep for horses going to the Travers and can even be a preview of what will be seen in August.
In addition, having the Haskell-Travers double on a three-year-old's resume going into the Eclipse voting can be more powerful than just one Triple Crown jewel or a few lower level stakes. Even a high placing in the Haskell and a win in the Travers or the Woodward (against older horses) can get a horse the extra votes needed to win.
The Breeder's Cup has an incentive to get horses to come to their races called the "Win and You're In" series. The Haskell just happens to be one of these. If a horse wins the Haskell, runs well in the Breeder's Cup and has a nice little resume behind him, he could be a shoo-in for the Eclipse.
The guaranteed spot to the Breeder's Cup is definitely a stepping stone to the Eclipse Awards and the Haskell win moves you forward one more spot.
The Haskell looks to have Belmont winner Ruler on Ice and Preakness winner Shackleford in it. With Animal Kingdom's injury, these two look like they are the two top contenders in the race for the Eclipse right now.
If one of them wins, they definitely have an edge over the other, but if someone else wins, it adds another name to the Eclipse ballot. This race is definitely one of the make or breaks of the season when it comes to the Triple Crown race winners, and with the field they are running against, it's not going to be a cakewalk for them to pull off a victory or one-two finish.
This field should definitely make the Eclipse race a lot more interesting.