Arabian Knight Favored Over Mage in Haskell

Arabian Knight gets a feel for the Monmouth surface Wednesday morning after arriving Tuesday | Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Undefeated two-for-two GIII Southwest S. winner and 'TDN Rising Star' Arabian Knight (Uncle Mo) has been made the slight 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $1-million, GI Haskell S. at Monmouth Park at the expense of GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage (Good Magic), who was tabbed as the joint 3-1 second choice alongside GI Toyota Blue Grass S. winner and 'TDN Rising Star' Tapit Trice (Tapit). The top three choices drew post positions eight, four, and five, respectively.

“I believe the horse's entire body of work and his entire career is what defines him,” said Mage's co-owner Ramiro Restrepo about the Derby winner. “It's not just one race. He had a great break. It's the start of the second half of his 3-year-old year. We feel he's good enough to compete and put forth a quality effort. Hopefully, that's good enough to get the job done and put forth a great performance and keep it moving. We're happy we have a talented horse who's feeling good, and we hope he'll give a great account of himself Saturday.”

Arabian Knight may be light on experience, but he has the services of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Haskell a record nine times.

“It's exciting to win the Haskell,” Baffert told track officials via phone from California. “It's a race where every year when I'm [evaluating] my 2-year-olds I always try to figure out who's going to be my Haskell horse. The reason we've always been so successful there is because I always bring my best horses there. You need to do that if you're going to win that race.”

Todd Pletcher, another Hall of Famer, has won the Haskell three times and will send Tapit Trice.

“Post position five works well,” said Pletcher. “He's had a history of drawing inside so that works out well. It looks like there's plenty of pace for him to run at.”

Wednesday's Haskell draw | Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Two-time Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox has won the Haskell the last two years with Cyberknife (Gun Runner) and Mandaloun (Into Mischief). He will saddle Salute the Stars (Candy Ride {Arg}), who won Monmouth's Pegasus S. June 17.

Mandaloun and Cyberknife were more accomplished colts. But he acted like a good horse the day he walked into the barn. That's only one exciting thing about him,” said Cox. “I don't know if the fact he's run over the track and won on it gives us an advantage, but it's a plus. These are obviously very good horses we're running against. It's definitely not a disadvantage.”

From the rail out, with jockeys and morning-line odds, the Haskell field includes: Geaux Rocket Ride (Candy Ride {Arg}) (Mike Smith, 9-2); Awesome Strong (Awesome Slew) (Jose Batista, 30-1); Salute the Stars (Joel Rosario, 8-1); Mage (Javier Castellano, 3-1); Tapit Trice (Luis Saez, 3-1); Howgreatisnate (Speightster) (Paco Lopez, 20-1); Extra Anejo (Into Mischief) (Tyler Gaffalione, 5-1); and Arabian Knight (John Velazquez, 5-2).

The Haskell will be run for the 56th time and is a “Win and You're In” race for the $6-million GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series.

The Haskell undercard will also feature the $600,000 GI United Nations S., the $500,000 GIII Molly Pitcher S., the $400,000 GIII Monmouth Cup S., and the $300,000 GIII WinStar Matchmaker S.

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