OCEANPORT, N.J. — Good Magic, the reigning 2-year-old champion male horse, will look to regain his winning ways when he headlines a field of seven top-flight sophomore runners in the 51st renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million betfair.com Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday, July 29.
The Eclipse Award-winning Good Magic, a Stonestreet Stables homebred who is owned by e Five Thoroughbreds and his breeder, was installed as the overwhelming 6-5 morning line favorite following the post position draw on July 26. The Chad Brown-trainee will break from post No. 6 in Monmouth Park’s showcase event, which will be contested at a mile and an eighth.
The Haskell is also a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with an all-expenses paid trip to Churchill Downs on Nov. 3 and a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $6 million Classic.
“This year’s Haskell, which is New Jersey’s richest race, has a very good field and it will be an exciting race,” said Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park.
The Haskell, where champions prove their greatness, will be the first race back following a 10-week layoff for Good Magic, who captured the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and won the Grade 2 Bluegrass Stakes in April. In his efforts since, he finished a solid second and then was fourth behind eventual Triple Crown winner and the now-retired Justify in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, respectively, in May.
“He definitely had those two tough races back-to-back and we gave him a little time off. He needed that to recharge his batteries,” said Brown, the defending Eclipse Award trainer. “We had the Haskell in mind for him right after the Preakness and he’s been training very well for it. Running off a layoff doesn’t bother him.”
Brown, who is seeking his first Haskell victory, said that the grueling Triple Crown races can take their toll on the horses, mentally and physically, and that the first two legs left Good Magic, who fetched a $1 million price as a yearling, body sore and the efforts peeled weight from the colt.
“The horse responded well from his time off and is doing great now. He’s ready to go back in the ring,” Brown said.
In his return to the fray, Good Magic will again find Bravazo. The Calumet Farm’s homebred is the only horse other than Justify to contest all three legs of the 2018 Triple Crown, finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Preakness and sixth in the Belmont Stakes.
“This is the next logical spot, a major Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds, so if you’ve got a horse who is healthy and ready to run this is the spot,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who will saddle his 14th Haskell starter and won the race with Serena’s Song in 1995. “Not every horse makes it through the whole Triple Crown unscathed. He made all three races. He’s a very tough, nice horse. He’s actually getting better with maturity and I expect a very good effort from him.”
Two other colts renewing a rivalry are G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor from the barn of Tom Amoss and Gary Broad’s Core Beliefs, who has shipped in from California for trainer Peter Eurton. In their recent meeting in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, Lone Sailor led in deep stretch but got nosed at the wire by the fast-closing and hard-charging Core Beliefs.
“Lone Sailor was always a physically-imposing animal but he was mentally immature,” said Amoss, who added he has been working with the colt to correct his shortcomings. “Lately it’s all been sinking in and I feel we’ve turned the corner with him. There is legitimate speed in the race and we know he will come from off the pace. I hope we’ll be able to make that finish a good one this time.”
Navy Commander, who punched his Haskell ticket with a dominating and front-running triumph in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 7, should benefit from that trip over the track and with Angel Arroyo back aboard. They will depart from post No. 2, just to the outside of Lone Sailor.
“He really stepped up in that race,” said trainer Robert “Butch” Reid, Jr., who is based at Parx but got his start at Monmouth and was once a fixture on the backstretch there. “He’s the best he’s ever been coming out of that race. I trained horses here for 15 years and I know it really helps to have raced over this track.”
That may work to the advantage of Roaming Union and Golden Brown, who come from the barns of long-time Monmouth Parktrainers Kelly Breen and Pat McBurney, respectively.
Roaming Union, a son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, was second in the Long Branch Stakes here June 17 at a mile and a sixteenth, and Golden Brown became a first-time graded stakes winner when he took the Grade 3 Kent at the Haskell distance of a mile and an eighth at Delaware Park in his last effort. That race, however, was on the grass.
“Golden Brown’s numbers on the dirt are as good as they are on the turf,” said McBurney in discussing the turf to dirt angle for his horse. “The farther he goes, the better he’ll like it. His best races so far have been on the grass, and if he takes to the dirt, we should be in good shape. It’s good to be back home.”
Breen, who was born and raised near Monmouth Park and has won a training title here, echoed that sentiment.
“I’m a Jersey-bred,” said Breen, who won the 2011 Belmont Stakes with Ruler On ice. “When I ran my first horse in the Kentucky Derby I was asked how I’d feel when they play ‘My Old Kentucky Home.’ For me it’s when they play (Bruce) Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ when the horses leave the paddock for the Haskell post parade.
“I hope to have a fresh and sharp horse for the Haskell.”
Brown, who will give a leg up to reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz on Good Magic, expects the same.
“There will be a good pace in this race,” Brown said. “I don’t want to be on the lead and on the rail and this horse won’t be. Hopefully, he breaks cleanly and gets into a good forward position and then goes on from there.”
The Haskell field from the rail out with jockeys and odds: 1 — Lone Sailor, Joe Bravo, 5-1; 2 — Navy Commander, Angel Arroyo, 12-1; 3 — Roaming Union, Albin Jimenez, 10-1; 4 — Core Beliefs, Flavien Prat, 4-1; 5 — Bravazo, Luis Saez, 3-1; 6 — Good Magic, Jose Ortiz, 6-5; 7 — Golden Brown, Jairo Rendon, 15-1.
Post time for the Haskell Invitational, which will be televised by NBC Sports from 5 to 6 p.m., is 5:47 p.m. It will go as the 12thof 14 races on the card. First race post on Haskell day is at Noon.
The supporting card offers four additional graded stakes: the $150,000 Grade 3 Monmouth Cup at a mile and an eighth; the $100,000 WinStar Matchmaker at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass; the $100,000 Oceanport at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf, and the $100,000 Molly Pitcher at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track.
In addition, the $75,000 Wolf Hill Stakes will be run at 5½ furlongs on the grass as part of the undercard.
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