2011 Haskell Invitational: Can Shackleford Win?

Joseph CiracoCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2011

Shackleford looks to win the Grade 1 Haskell
Shackleford looks to win the Grade 1 HaskellRob Carr/Getty Images

The feature race at Monmouth today is the $1,000,000 Grade One Haskell, which features Preakness winner Shackleford.

Shackleford is the 5:2 morning line favorite and appears fully recovered from running in all three triple crown races. Two incredible bullet workouts recently at five furlongs is a great reason to be confident that this talented 3-year-old is ready to win this race.

The two main threats appear to be Coil, the Bob Baffert trained speedster, who is shipping in from California and has yet to run over natural dirt.

Coil has three wins in five career starts, with a solid second place finish in his last start. Baffert has decided to remove the blinkers for this race, possibly because his horse drew the dreaded rail.

Pants on Fire is currently 4:1 and is the horse that I like. In his last start, Pants on Fire stalked a fast pace and surged to victory in the Grade Three Pegasus over the Monmouth main track. I also like the win at nine furlongs in 1:49.4 on March 26, so the distance today shouldn't be a problem.

Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice is also 4:1 but I'm not completely sold on his chances. Despite an incredible win in the Belmont, two of his three wins have been over a wet track, so I don't think today's track conditions will suit him.

Concealed Identity is a very interesting horse and could be the long shot special. At 12:1, this colt appears poised to take another step forward, but will that be enough? 

I don't like the chances of Astrology, JJ's Lucky Train or Joe Vann. Each of these horses has the talent to win races, but not this race. JJ's Lucky Train has two wins at Monmouth but both races were sprints, so they become almost irrelevant.

Pick: Pants on Fire and Shackleford appear to be the two best horses in this fantastic race. I expect really fast early fractions as Coil, Joe Vann and Astrology all like the lead early. Shackleford and Pants on Fire won't be far behind and when the race hits the top of the stretch, I see a two-horse battle. Pants on Fire in 1:48.4.