This Saturday, Monmouth Park will host its signature event, the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes. A field of some of the country’s top 3-year-olds will travel 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt main track, including the runner-up in the Preakness Stakes, Midnight Bourbon, and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve runner-up Mandaloun.
This year’s Haskell is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The winner of the Haskell will earn an expenses-paid spot in the starting gate for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Here, we’ll take a look at some fun facts to get ready for this year’s Haskell.
1. The race was known as the Monmouth Invitational Handicap from its inception in 1968 until 1981. That year, it was renamed in honor of Amory L. Haskell, the first president and chairman of the new Monmouth Park, which re-opened in 1946 after being closed since the 1890s. He was a driving force in making the track one of the East Coast’s most prestigious venues.
2. The first edition of the Monmouth Invitational was held on Aug. 3, 1968, before 39,042 fans. Balustrade won the race in a 33-1 upset, prevailing by a length over eventual Travers winner Chompion. The purse for that race was $75,000, or about $580,000 in today’s money.
3. Dust Commander was the first Kentucky Derby winner to race in the Monmouth Invitational, doing so in 1970. Sent off at 8-1, he finished third behind favored Twice Worthy, who set a then-track record of 1:48 ⅖.
4. Only four horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Haskell: War Emblem in 2002, Big Brown in 2008, American Pharoah in 2015, and Authentic in 2020. Authentic won the Derby after the Haskell, as the Derby was held in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Holding Pattern won the Monmouth Invitational in 1974 by a nose. In his next start, he won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, becoming the first horse to complete the Haskell-Travers double. The feat has since been accomplished by six other horses: Wajima in 1975, Wise Times in 1986, Forty Niner in 1988, Holy Bull in 1994, Coronado’s Quest in 1998, and Point Given in 2001.
6. In 1975, Wajima won the Monmouth Invitational by a neck as the 3-5 favorite. Later that year, he became the first horse to win the Monmouth Invitational and an Eclipse Award when he was voted champion 3-year-old male.
7. In 1979, Coastal became the first horse to win a Triple Crown event and the Monmouth Invitational. Less than two months after denying Spectacular Bid the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, he won the race as the 1-5 favorite by three lengths on a muddy track.
8. Since Coastal, four horses have won the Belmont and the Haskell: Bet Twice in 1987, Touch Gold in 1997, Point Given in 2001, and American Pharoah in 2015.
9. Deputed Testamony was the first horse to complete the Preakness-Haskell double, doing so in 1983. Since then, Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002, Big Brown in 2008, Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Lookin at Lucky in 2010, American Pharoah in 2015, and Exaggerator in 2016 have also done so.
10. Skip Trial pulled off what remains the biggest upset in Haskell history in 1985. Spend a Buck, the dominant front-running winner of the Kentucky Derby, was the 3-5 favorite before 31,386 fans expecting to see a coronation. Skip Trial, at 35.50-1, rolled by the favorite in the stretch and won by 3 ¾ lengths.
11. The 1987 Haskell is credited with putting the race on the map as a major destination for 3-year-olds. That year’s race attracted Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba, Belmont winner Bet Twice, and seven-time stakes winner Lost Code. The three engaged in a stretch battle that lived up to all expectations. Bet Twice prevailed by a neck, winning in a time of 1:47 to equal a stakes record. That mark, shared with 1976 winner Majestic Prince, still stands as of 2021.
12. The biggest exacta in Haskell history occurred in 1990. Restless Con won at 10-1 odds while 26-1 Baron de Vaux finished second. The $2 exacta returned $395.
13. Serena’s Song became the first filly to win the Haskell in 1995. The future Hall of Famer won by three-quarters of a length over Pyramid Peak as the 3-2 favorite. Her win marked the only Haskell victory to date for her trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
14. Rachel Alexandra, in 2009, is the only other filly to win the Haskell. She splashed her way to victory by six lengths as part of a history-making season that culminated with an Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.
15. The race was a handicap event, meaning that each horse in the field was assigned a weight, from 1968 to 2005, with the exception of 1988. In 2006, the race became an equal-weights race for good.
16. Until 2020, the Haskell was an invitational, which means that a horse had to be invited in order to run. There were no nomination or starting fees as a result. Starting in 2020, the race was made into a regular stakes race with nominating and starting fees. This year, the nomination fee for the Haskell is $500. It costs an additional $6,000 to enter and $6,000 more to start.
17. Verrazano holds the record for largest winning margin in Haskell history. He won the 2013 edition by 9 ¾ lengths. Holding Pattern in 1974, Forty Niner in 1988, Girvin in 2017, and Authentic in 2020 all share the record for shortest winning margin. They each triumphed by a nose.
18. Craig Perret, Martin Garcia, and Mike Smith have won the most Haskells of any jockey. Perret won with Thanks to Tony in 1981, Bet Twice in 1987, and Lost Mountain in 1991. Garcia won aboard Lookin at Lucky in 2010, Coil in 2011, and Bayern in 2014. Smith won with Holy Bull in 1994, Coronado’s Quest in 1998, and Authentic in 2020.
19. Monmouth veteran Joe Bravo has competed in the Haskell more than any jockey. He’s ridden in the Haskell 16 times, winning with Lion Heart in 2004.
20. The biggest field in Haskell history came in 1971, when 12 horses raced. The smallest field in race history is five horses, which has happened six times, most recently in 2002.
21. When Triple Crown winner American Pharoah raced in the Haskell in 2015, he attracted a crowd of 60,983, the biggest in race history. He won by 2 ¼ lengths in hand.
22. Last year’s Haskell day card set the record for largest handle in Haskell day history. Despite a limited on-track crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions, $20,479,392 was wagered on the 14-race program.
23. In contrast to most major races, the Haskell was held on Sunday for a large part of its history. Sunday racing was held in New Jersey for the first time in 1991, and the Haskell was moved to Sunday in 1992. It remained there until 2019, when it was moved back to Saturday.
24. Twenty-six Haskell winners were bay, the most of any color. Eleven were chestnut, 11 more were dark bay or brown, and four were gray or roan.