Sports

Could Monmouth Park's Haskell Invitational Be on Justify's Agenda?

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Triple Crown winner Justify bounced out to meet the press the day after his victory with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes on the halter. Credits: NYRA
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Justify's name has already been added to the row of Triple Crown winners on the infield at Belmont Park. Credits: Zoe Metz | NYRA
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ELMONT, NY — Triple Crown winner Justify came out of his stall to meet the media bright and bouncing on the morning after his gate-to-wire win in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes.

When asked to assess his colt's win, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert reported, “We were watching replays of the race. He could have gone around again.”

The brilliantly colored chestnut with a white blaze had become only the second colt to carry an undefeated record into the Belmont and come out with it intact. The legendary Seattle Slew did it first in 1977.

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Baffert also became a major factor in the history of thoroughbred racing when he joined the late “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons as only the second trainer to saddle a Triple Crown winner. Baffert won with American Pharoah in 2015.

Hall of Fame trainer Fitzsimmons sent out Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935 to win the Triple Crown for the Belair Stud.

At the morning after media gathering, the inevitable 'What's next?' question arose.

One of the possibles is the $1 million, Grade 1 Betfair Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 29.

After a Monday morning trip to Churchill Downs for some equine rest and recreation, Justify's connections will consider their options that also include the $600,000, Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga July 14 and the $1 million, Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18.

Elliot Walden, CEO at WinStar (a member of the colt's partnership) killed off any notion that Justify would immediately retire and go to stud. Walden said, “We're looking forward to sharing him more. He's become a household name and I'm looking forward to his next race as much as everyone else.”

Based on past performance, the betting here is the Haskell. Baffert is an eight-time winner of Monmouth's signature race. His winners are:

  • 2015 - American Pharoah
  • 2014 - Bayern
  • 2012 - Paynter
  • 2011 - Coil
  • 2010 - Lookin at Lucky
  • 2005 - Roman Ruler
  • 2002 - War Emblem
  • 2001 - Point Given

John Heims, racing secretary at Monmouth, said on June 10 that invitation list for the 2018 Haskell will be out “in about two weeks.” When asked about Justify, Heims replied, “Obviously, he will be invited.” He also let it be known there have been “preliminary contacts” with Justify's connections.

American Pharoah's appearance at the 2015 Haskell produced a sell-out. It's odds-on the Monmouth folks will be all-out to show Justify's folks some Oceanport hospitality.

Here's a hint for racing fans wanting to see Justify run in the Haskell. Check the airplane schedules on assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes cell phone.

The 13 winners of the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby-Preakness-Belmont) with trainers and riders:

  • 1919- J.K.L. Ross' Sir Barton, H. Guy Bedwell, Johnny Loftus.
  • 1930- Belair Stud's Gallant Fox, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Earl Sande.
  • 1935- Belair Stud's Omaha, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Smokey Saunders.
  • 1937- Samuel D. Riddle's War Admiral, George Conway, Charles Kurtsinger.
  • 1941- Calumet Farm's Whirlaway, Ben Jones, Eddie Arcaro.
  • 1943- Fannie Hertz' Count Fleet, Don Cameron, Johnny Longden.
  • 1946- King Ranch's Assault, Max Hirsch, Warren Mehrtens.
  • 1948- Calumet Farm's Citation, Horace A. (Jimmy) Jones, Eddie Arcaro.
  • 1973- Meadow Stable's Secretariat, Lucien Lauren, Ron Turcotte,
  • 1977- Mickey and Karen Taylor, Tayhill Stable and Jim Hill's Seattle Slew, Billy Turner, Jean Cruget.
  • 1978- Harbor View Farm's Affirmed, Laz Barrera, Steve Cauthen.
  • 2015- Zayat Stable's American Pharoah, Bob Baffert, Victor Espinosa.
  • 2018- China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's Justify, Bob Baffert, Mike Smith.

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