Cyberknife slices through to Haskell triumph
You can’t win ‘em all, they say. Even if you’re Chad Brown.
Brown, the New York-based training colossus, won the first four graded stakes on Monmouth Park’s card July 23. But he couldn’t take the biggest one of them all.
The Brown-trained Jack Christopher tasted defeat for the first time in his career in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell, finishing third while Cyberknife shot through along the rail to register the mild upset.
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“I wanted to win this for years. I’ve been an owner for 20 years, and finally we got to win,” said winning owner Al Gold, who races as Gold Square LLC. “So it’s terrific. It’s indescribable.”
Trainer Brad Cox suggested prior to the 1 ⅛-mile Haskell that he and his team had not yet gotten to the bottom of Cyberknife. The sophomore son of Gun Runner entered the Haskell with four wins from eight starts, including a score in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April.
He had followed that up with a disastrous 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby but bounced back nicely, winning a hard-fought battle with Howling Time in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill.
But Cox knew he would need more from his charge in the Haskell.
“I think we’re going to have to see the best Cyberknife to win this race,” Cox said. “If he can bring his last race and maybe move forward just a little bit, he can be a major player.”
When the gates opened, it was longshot Benevengo, with Angel Rodriguez up for young trainer Jesse Cruz, who sped to the early advantage. Brown’s Jack Christopher, off as the favorite, moved up to press the pace, as that duo motored through a half-mile in 46.96 seconds.
Cyberknife, meanwhile, was back in sixth early and towards the inside, several lengths off what was turning into a rapid pace for the distance.
“I was worried about drawing the rail,” Gold admitted. “But when he broke sharp, we were confident. The flow took him back a little bit further than I thought, but he moved at the right time.”
Rounding the turn, jockey Florent Geroux and Cyberknife began to move forward along the inside, while Jack Christopher went to the attack. Jack Christopher hit the lead at the top of the lane, but the Munnings colt, trying two turns for the first time, was suddenly in deep waters, with the Bob Baffert-trained Taiba, winner of the Santa Anita Derby earlier this year, looping up outside.
At the head of the lane, as Benevengo tired, Geroux steered his mount between rivals to avoid the faltering Benevengo, then back to the rail for a clear seam. In a stirring battle, he prevailed over Taiba by a half-length, with Jack Christopher tiring to third.
The running time for the Haskell was 1:46.24, a new track record. That broke the record of 1:46.53 set by Highly Motivated just four races prior in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup on a day when the dirt course was very, very fast; In an allowance win earlier on the card, Awesome Aaron was just 0.12 seconds off the track record for 1 mile 70 yards, and in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, the filly Search Results was 0.28 seconds off the 1 1/16-mile track record.
Cyberknife paid $17.60 to win as the fourth choice in the field of eight. The one-dollar exacta, with 2-1 Taiba in second, returned $27.90.
Cyberknife, bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, now has five wins in nine career starts to go with earnings of nearly $1.6 million. He has also secured himself a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, for which the Haskell is a “win and you’re in” event.
NOTES Though he faltered in the Haskell, trainer Chad Brown and jockey Flavien Prat teamed up to win the other.four graded stakes on the card. That included a good-looking score by 9-5 favorite Adhamo in the Grade 1 United Nations. Adhamo, a Group 3 winner in France, won for the first time in four North American starts, defeating 72-1 longshot Epic Bromance, a local trained by Kent Sweezey, and the Mike Maker-trained Temple. Epic Bromance placed in the United Nations at monster odds for the second consecutive year; in 2021 he finished third at odds of 61-1…