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Blog - GAMBLING

Albano wins the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park in June. (Photo by Equiphoto/Monmouth Park)

The Grade 1, $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes features the remarkable filly Untapable, taking on male horses for the first time in her career. Untapable has won four straight graded stakes including the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, two of the same races won by Rachel Alexandra before winning the Haskell in 2009.

There is not one horse among the eight signed up to take on Untapable that cannot win. That group is led by impressive Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes winner Bayern. Two stakes winners recently at Monmouth, Albano (Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes) and Irish You Well (Long Branch Stakes) appear capable of stepping up to the plate and running well, as might Grade 1 Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Medal Count.

Additionally, Long Branch runner-up and third-place finishers, respectively, Just Call Kenny and Encryption, look capable. Wildcat Red continues to perform gamely, having rebounded off an 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby to win the Quality Road Stakes last month. Woody Stephens third-place finisher Social Inclusion completes the field. 

The Haskell will be televised on NBC as part of a broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. ET with a scheduled post time for the Haskell of 5:44 p.m.

Main contenders:

Albano is the kind of improving colt that can post the mild upset and win the Haskell. Albano won the Sugar Bowl Stakes last December in only the third start of his career and entered the Kentucky Derby prep race picture right away, finishing second in the LeComte Stakes then missing by a nose to Intense Holiday in the Risen Star Stakes.

Following a troubled fifth of 10 finish in the Louisiana Derby, Albano skipped the Triple Crown races. This may have been a very wise choice, because when he returned on June 15 in the Pegasus Stakes following two and a half months off, he earned a career best 111 Equibase Speed Figure dominating that race by six lengths. In 2013, Verrazano used victory in the Pegasus as a springboard to winning the Haskell, and I feel Albano is on the same course in 2014. 

Untapable has been more than impressive in winning four straight graded stakes starting with the Rachel Alexandra in February and ending with the Mother Goose last month. Among those victories came an easy four-and-a-half length win in the Kentucky Oaks at the distance of the Haskell, with a career-best 114 speed figure which is also the second-highest earned by any runner in this field in any of their races. Always in front by multiple lengths with an eighth of a mile to run in those four victories, Untapable undoubtedly has the mental and physical traits of a champion. It is fitting that she won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes to start her current streak, as that champion filly won the Haskell in 2009 coming out of a win in the Mother Goose as well. In short, Untapable does what it takes to dominate and does it well, her entry into the Haskell field likely to make the race one of the best of the year to date. 

WILDCAT RED WINS THE QUALITY ROAD STAKES

Wildcatred

Photo by Kenny Martin/Coglianese Photo

Wildcat Red never gives up. Ignoring his troubled 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Wildcat Red has never been worse than second in eight races. At the distance of the Haskell in the Florida Derby in March, Wildcat Red battled head and head for the entire length of the stretch, losing by a neck on the wire. After nearly two months off following his poor effort in the Kentucky Derby, Wildcat Red returned to dominate the field by 10 lengths in the Quality Road Stakes last month, earning a career-best 107 figure. That figure, with just slight improvement, puts him in the 111 to 114 range that Untapable and Albano are capable of. Flattered when Quality Road runner-up East Hall returned to win the Ohio Derby last weekend, Wildcat Red deserves a lot of respect in this year's Haskell. 

Notes about the others:

Bayern earned a career-best and field-high 123 figure dominating the Woody Stephens Stakes last month. The Woody Stephens was run at seven furlongs around one turn. Two races before the Woody Stephens, Bayern won the Derby Trial Stakes only to be disqualified to second for a bumping incident in the stretch, that race run at the distance of a mile around one turn. Bayern's other two wins came at the distance of seven furlongs and a mile. The two times he has tried to run farther than a mile (and two of his three two-turn tries) he hasn’t run nearly as well, third in the Arkansas Derby and ninth in the Kentucky Derby. It's not that Bayern doesn't have potential to run well at this mile-and-an-eighth trip and win the Haskell, it's that the main contenders are already proven around two turns and that is why Bayern isn't a contender to win in my opinion. 

BAYERN WINS 2014 WOODY STEPHENS

Bayern

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Irish You Well won the non-graded Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth three weeks ago, earning the same 111 figure Albano did winning the Pegasus (at the same distance) three weeks earlier. He's rapidly improving and only the appearance he hasn’t run with the same level of competition as Albano is the reason he's not rated higher.

Just Call Kenny earned the same 111 figure finishing second in the Long Branch and is on an improving pattern so could run well, but on the other hand he too hasn't faced the kind of quality runners he is facing Sunday. Encryption finished third in the Long Branch with a 107 figure but has just a maiden win to his credit.

Medal Count earned a career-best 107 figure when third in the Belmont Stakes and could share history with 2012 Haskell winner Paynter, who finished second in the Belmont prior to his victory. Social Inclusion earned a 108 figure while a non-threatening third behind Bayern in the Woody Stephens and hasn't proven himself at this level. 

My Selections:

Albano

Untapable

Wildcat Red

$1-million William Hill Haskell Invitational S.
Monmouth Park, Sunday, Race 12, 5:44 p.m. Post Time
1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML Odds

1

Encryption

Paco Lopez

Kelly Breen

20-1

2

Bayern

Martin Garcia

Bob Baffert

5-2

3

Albano

Kerwin Clark

Larry Jones

6-1

4

Irish You Well

Jose Lezcano

Wayne Catalano

12-1

5

Just Call Kenny

Joe Bravo

Patrick B. McBurney

10-1

6

Social Inclusion

Edgar Prado

Manny Azpurua

8-1

7

Untapable

Rosie Napravnik

Steve Asmussen

2-1

8

Wildcat Red

Luis Saez

Jose Garoffalo

10-1

9

Medal Count

Robby Albarado

Dale Romans

8-1

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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