Five Key Takeaways from Haskell Stakes Weekend

Mandaloun, inside, and Hot Rod Charlie gallop toward the finish line of the TVG Haskel Stakes July 17 at Monmouth Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $1 million Haskell Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park and other major developments this weekend.

Winning jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Brad Cox. (Eclipse Sportswire)

SMART CAMPAIGN: Although Juddmonte Farms’ Mandaloun needed a disqualification to turn a nose loss to Hot Rod Charlie into a lucrative victory, Garrett O’Rourke was quick to credit Brad Cox’s decision-making. The Eclipse Award-winning trainer used the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth to prep for the Haskell and the fees-paid entry into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic that it afforded the winner. “Ultimately, I think Brad followed a very good plan. We got one over the track,” said O’Rourke, who oversees Juddmonte’s United States division. “He trained up here as well.” O’Rourke did not feel the result was at all diminished by the stewards’ ruling that Hot Rod Charlie was responsible for interfering with Midnight Bourbon. He said of Mandaloun: “He’s a beautifully-bred horse and he was extremely well-prepared. We’re extremely proud. It was an unusual race, but we still feel like he ran a winning race and it tastes the same.”

PREVENTABLE INCIDENT? The difficulty of balancing the need to improve the public’s perception of racing while keeping riders and their horses as safe as possible was readily apparent during the first disqualification in the Haskell’s 67-year history. Because jockeys are not allowed to use the riding crop in New Jersey other than for safety reasons, Flavien Prat unsuccessfully relied on a furious hand ride in a fruitless attempt to keep Hot Rod Charlie straight during the stretch run. Hot Rod Charlie instead moved inside and into the path of Midnight Bourbon and his jockey, Paco Lopez, who was fortunate to escape with minor injuries. “Yes, the lack of a crop came into play,” Prat told BloodHorse. “I was trying to correct him as much as I could. If I could have hit him just one time left-handed, we would have been fine.”

SUPERSTAR POTENTIAL: Wit continued to demonstrate superstar potential when he dominated the $150,000 Sanford Stakes by eight lengths at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, giving him victories in his first two starts by a combined 14 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher. “He put himself in a good stalking position and used his very impressive turn of foot around the turn,” Pletcher said of the overwhelming Sanford performance. “He’s a very well-behaved horse, very composed and mature mentally.” The only negative with Wit, owned by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable, has been a tendency to start slowly. Pletcher and his staff will continue to work on that in anticipation of his next scheduled start, the $300,000, Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Sept 6 at Saratoga.

Althiqa winning Diana Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

MAGNIFICENT JOURNEY: Godolphin’s Althiqa and Summer Romance targeted the Longines Just a Game and the Diana Stakes, a pair of Grade 1 events, when they arrived in the United States in May on behalf of trainer Charlie Appleby. Remarkably, they finished one-two in that order in each race to make traveling assistant Sophie Chretien’s journey most rewarding. “Everything worked out perfect. Mission accomplished,” Chretien said. Plans call for the two classy fillies to return to England on Tuesday morning. “They’re both doing just fine,” Chretien said. The New York Racing Association may turn out to be the biggest winner of all since it is constantly working to increase foreign participation. Nothing like success to keep ’em coming back.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: French-bred Tribhuvan was brought to the United States and entrusted to prominent trainer Chad Brown ahead of the 2020 season with the expectation that he would deliver a Grade 1 victory. On his sixth attempt, the 5-year-old gelding finally got the job done in the $500,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth. The long-awaited result on behalf of Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso was all the more impressive because Tribhuvan carried his speed from start to finish with a front-running triumph in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations. “I kind of sent him out there because I didn’t want to be too wide, so I ended up on the lead,” Prat said, adding, “It worked out well. I had a lot of horse under me and he was really travelling well.”

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