A Classy Champion, 1989 Belmont Stakes Winner Easy Goer
Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes on Saturday at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park and other developments this past weekend.
REAL DEAL?: Authentic won for the fourth time in five career starts when he held off Ny Traffic by a scant nose in the Haskell, but the diminishing margin gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert cause for some concern as he looked ahead to the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. “We’re going to work on him a little ‘til then,” Baffert said. “I’m pretty proud of him. He ran well. I might have to put a little blinker on him because he went to idling on me.” Baffert, based on the West Coast, extended his record for Haskell victories with his ninth triumph in the race that provides the centerpiece of the Oceanport, N.J., track’s summer meet.
WHITE-HOT OWNER: John Fanelli caught lightning in a bottle when he claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 early last season at Gulfstream Park and watched him go on to capture the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby as a 31.10-1 longshot at Parx Racing last September. Well, he’s taken it to another level this year after Ny Traffic showed he can be a prime Derby contender with a bang-up second-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell. Fanelli is a general manager at a car dealership in New Jersey. He purchased New York-bred Ny Traffic for $27,000 as a 2-year-old in training. He said of being Derby-bound: “It’s incredible. It's a dream come true. It’s something I never thought I would have the opportunity to see in my lifetime.”
TIZ ON TARGET: Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner Tiz the Law remained on course for the Aug. 8 Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga with another encouraging work. The unquestioned leader of the 3-year-old division clocked 59.63 seconds for five furlongs on Saturday with exercise rider Robin Smullen aboard and trainer Barclay Tagg scrutinizing his every move. “He did it just right. The time was good. Everything was good,” Tagg said. Tiz the Law, 3-for-3 this season, galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.84. He is expected to breeze twice more at Saratoga ahead of the Mid-Summer Derby.
GAFFALIONE BREAKTHROUGH: Jockey Tyler Gaffalione earned his first Grade 1 score at Saratoga when Paris Lights, making her stakes debut, nipped Crystal Ball by a head in a thrilling stretch duel in the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks. The self-effacing Gaffalione, 25, credited his 3-year-old mount for her grit. “My filly just kept digging in,” he said. “The other filly was a little stubborn to get by, but my filly is all class.” Bill Mott, the Hall of Fame trainer of Paris Lights, expects to point her to the Aug. 15 Alabama Stakes at the Spa. Mott already is a three-time Alabama winner.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Decorated Invader, making his first attempt at a mile and an eighth, passed that test with ease as he won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes on Saratoga’s turf by 1 ¼ lengths. “I thought he looked better the last sixteenth of a mile than he did before that,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “He actually won going away at the end.” The Declaration of War colt captured his fifth victory in seven lifetime starts. He is perfect through three starts as a sophomore. “He’s a top-class horse and has been since Day One for me,” Clement said. “I love him. I love the way he trains. I love the way he races.”