Six runners to contest Haskell
Exaggerator and Nyquist. Photo by George Adams.
by Frank Vespe
Nyquist will face just five rivals in Sunday’s Grade 1, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
Nyquist, last year’s Eclipse Award winner as two-year-old champion and the winner of the Kentucky Derby this past May, will break from post one under regular pilot Mario Gutierrez. He has been installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite.
The Doug O’Neill trainee impressed when winning the Kentucky Derby but met the first defeat of his nine-race career in his next start, in the Grade 1 Preakness. That day, a prolonged duel up front sapped him of his energy late, and Exaggerator rallied to win a decisive victory. Nyquist, a son of Uncle Mo owned by Reddam Racing, was passed late by Cherry Wine for the place spot.
Nyquist’s Preakness conqueror, Exaggerator, also is here. The Keith Desormeaux trainee, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, will break from post six under regular rider Kent Desormeaux, the trainer’s brother.
Exaggerator ran a closing second in the Kentucky Derby and earned his second Grade 1 win — his first came in the Santa Anita Derby — in the Preakness, in which he prevailed by three lengths over a sloppy, sealed Pimlico surface. But after running close to the pace for 1 1/4 miles in the Belmont Stakes, he tired badly to be 11th. The son of Curlin has five wins from 12 starts.
Lightly raced American Freedom, trained by Bob Baffert for Gary and Mary West, is 3-1 on the morning line and will break from post number five under Rafael Bejarano. He has won three of four career starts, including, last out, the Grade 3 Iowa Derby.
Kentucky Derby show horse Gun Runner will break just to American Freedom’s inside, from post number four under jockey Florent Geroux, and is 4-1 on the morning line. The Candy Ride colt, trained by Steve Asmussen, has won five of seven starts overall, including the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and, most recently, the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.
Rounding out the field are a pair of locally based runners. New Jersey-bred Sunny Ridge (20-1), trained by Jason Servis for Dennis Drazin, will break from post number two under Nik Juarez. And Awesome Slew (15-1) and jockey Paco Lopez will break from post three for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. and owner Live Oak Plantation.