Haskell Stakes Quick Sheet: Get to Know the 2021 Haskell Horses

Graded stakes winners Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon and Hot Rod Charlie (left to right) headline Saturday’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. (Bill Denver-EQUI-PHOTO/Coady Photography/Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park marks the resumption of what has so far been a very exciting season of racing in the 3-year-old male division. The runners-up from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets are all slated to start in the Haskell as they vie for positions behind division leader and Belmont winner Essential Quality.

What’s more, the 1 1/8-mile Haskell is a “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series presented by America’s Best Racing. The Haskell winner will receive an expenses-paid berth in the $6 million Longines Classic, held this year on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

The 54th Haskell will be shown live on NBC during a one-hour broadcast starting at 5 p.m. ET Saturday. Post time for the Haskell is 5:47 p.m. ET. For live streaming coverage, America’s Best Racing and Breeders’ Cup present “Breeders’ Cup LIVE! Road to the Longines Classic” hosted by Dan Tordjman and Ren Hakim Carothers. For more information on TV/live streaming/radio coverage during Haskell week, click here.

Read on for information about all seven Haskell contenders.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

1. Following Sea (3-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $115,520

Earnings per start: $38,507

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Runhappy – Quick Flip, by Speightstown

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: In a race with three experienced horses who were runners-up in the individual Triple Crown races, this talented and fast colt profiles as the contender with the best chance to jump up and earn his own recognition in the Haskell. Following Sea debuted for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita Park on March 6 and finished second as the 9-10 favorite in a six-furlong maiden after getting bumped early. He then was sent to Oaklawn Park for his second start, another six-furlong race, on April 10. The Spendthrift Farm homebred dominated, setting the pace and winning by 5 ¾ lengths, but a month later he was then transferred to Todd Pletcher’s barn after Baffert was prohibited from racing his horses at several East Coast and Midwest tracks. In his first start for Pletcher, Following Sea extended out to 6 ½ furlongs for a June 30 allowance race against three opponents at Belmont Park, and once again he made short work of the field, pressing the early pace and exploding to a 6 ½-length win. He’s earned back-to-back triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures and clearly has graded stakes-winning potential, although it remains to be seen how he’ll handle a huge class hike and a stretchout to two turns for the first time in the Haskell. He’s a son of champion sprinter Runhappy and out of a mare who is the daughter of another champion sprinter in Speightstown and who was a stakes-winning sprinter herself. Despite apparent pedigree limitations, Following Sea has earned the right to test deep waters in the Haskell, and at the very least he should make things interesting for Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon on the front end. Look for big-race rider Joel Rosario to send him early from the inside post. Todd Pletcher, set to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in a few weeks, has three Haskell wins to his credit: Bluegrass Cat (2006), Any Given Saturday (2007), and Verrazano (2013). He finished third in last year’s renewal with Dr Post.

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

2. Antigravity (30-1)

Jockey: David Cohen

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Owners: Hollendorfer LLC and Dennis January

Career record: 12 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $140,310

Earnings per start: $11,693

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Pedigree: First Samurai – Port Charlotte, by Blame

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Antigravity enters the Haskell on a two-race winning streak and appears to have finally taken the next step in development, but he’s still a definite outsider in this field. He lost his first 10 starts but showed improvement in the spring with a pair of runner-up finishes at Oaklawn Park. After shipping to Monmouth, he won a one-mile and 70-yard maiden race on June 6 by 3 ½ lengths, overcoming a stumble out of the gate, and then took a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race by a neck on June 26 with a late rally. Look for this First Samurai colt to race in midpack and try to capitalize on a fast early pace with a closing run that will hopefully get him into the trifecta or superfecta. Jerry Hollendorfer won the Haskell way back in 1989 with King Glorious, who was the first Grade 1 winner in the Hall of Fame trainer’s lengthy career.

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

3. Mandaloun (2-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,051,252

Earnings per start: $150,179

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Brooch, by Empire Maker

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mandaloun enters the Haskell off of two sterling races and is arguably the leading win contender in a competitive field, although Hot Rod Charlie supporters would beg to differ. The Juddmonte Farms homebred son of top sire Into Mischief rebounded from the only poor performance of his career – a puzzling sixth-place finish in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby won by Hot Rod Charlie in March – to run huge in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1, coming up a half-length short to Medina Spirit at odds of 26.90-1. He may very well be awarded the Kentucky Derby victory in the months to come if Medina Spirit is disqualified due to a medication violation, but in terms of Mandaloun’s overall form his Derby effort at 1 ¼ miles was the best start to date, and he backed it up with another strong race in his most recent outing. In the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 13, he overcame a shaky start to hold off Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn and win by a neck, earning a 109 Equibase Speed Figure and gaining experience on Monmouth’s main track. That should help him in Saturday’s Haskell, as his main challengers Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon will both be making their first starts at the “shore’s greatest stretch.” Another plus in his column is running style: Mandaloun is a pure stalker and could sit a perfect trip under Florent Geroux behind the aforementioned Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon while they contest the pace along with Following Sea. Look for him to get into gear through the far turn and make a bid for the lead near the top of the stretch. If the early pace is fast enough, Mandaloun should be in prime position to pick up his first Grade 1 win. This will be the first Haskell appearance for reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and the second for Geroux, his first-call rider. Geroux finished fifth in the 2016 Haskell on Gun Runner, one of the few poor career performances by the eventual 2017 Horse of the Year.

Eclipse Sportswire

4. Hot Rod Charlie (6-5)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owners: Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing, and William Strauss

Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,585,700

Earnings per start: $176,189

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Talented and consistent, Hot Rod Charlie has proven to be one of the very best horses in his age group going back to last fall, even though he’s still in search of his first Grade 1 win. After Doug O’Neill switched him to dirt permanently for his fourth start in October 2020, he has finished no worse than third every time, boasting a win this spring in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and subsequent strong showings in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (third by a length) and the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (second by 1 ¼ lengths). His Belmont effort was especially impressive, as he contested the pace all the way through the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” posting fast fractional times, and still fought gamely to the finish even after being passed late by winner Essential Quality. “Chuck,” as he’s called by the friends and former Brown University football players that comprise Boat Racing, has had six weeks to recover from his Belmont start and he’s been training well at Santa Anita Park for his comeback. Monmouth Park’s main track should benefit his proclivity for running on or near the lead, although he’s also shown enough versatility to stalk the pace if needed. It would be very surprising if Hot Rod Charlie is not in the mix with a chance to score that breakthrough Grade 1 victory when the Haskell field enters the homestretch. Flavien Prat, who is enjoying a career-best season, will be making his third Haskell start; he finished sixth in 2017 and fourth in 2018.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

5. Pickin’ Time (20-1)

Jockey: Nik Juarez

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Owner: Roseland Farm Stable

Career record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $199,825

Earnings per start: $24,978

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Pedigree: Stay Thirsty – Born to Royalty, by King of Kings

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Pickin’ Time showed promise last fall as a juvenile while racing in sprints and one-mile races, winning a listed stakes at Monmouth in September and then the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct going a one-turn mile in November. He was defeated by 17 ¼ lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes, however, which was his final start at age 2, and in his two starts this year he finished fourth by 11 ¼ lengths in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park after getting slammed at the start and then a finished a no-excuse seventh and last, beaten by 22 ¼ lengths, in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth on May 28. He’s certainly better than he showed in that race where he earned a 47 Equibase Speed Figure, and he’s been training well at Monmouth in recent weeks, but overall there’s little evidence this son of Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty has developed from age 2 to 3. Filling out the Haskell superfecta in a short field appears to be his ceiling. Jockey Nik Juarez currently ranks third in earnings and fourth in wins at the Monmouth meet through July 11. He finished third in the 2016 Haskell on longshot Sunny Ridge and fourth in 2020 on Jesus’ Team. Trainer Kelly Breen finished third in the 2011 Haskell with Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice.

Eclipse Sportswire

6. Midnight Bourbon (9-2)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $661,240

Earnings per start: $73,491

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Tiznow – Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon enters the Haskell off of a runner-up effort in a Triple Crown race. He returns after finishing second by 3 ½ lengths to Rombauer in the May 15 Preakness Stakes, a solid effort that he’ll need to improve on in order to win Saturday. In the Preakness, Midnight Bourbon pressed the pace set by Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve first-place finisher Medina Spirit, and in early stretch he took the lead and briefly appeared to be on his way to victory. He offered little resistance to Rombauer after that foe rallied from off the pace, however, and that brought back questions about his finishing ability from earlier in his career as he led in the stretch of both the Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford last September and the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford in February but could not close the deal. Midnight Bourbon should be among the horses contesting the early lead in the Haskell, and jockey Paco Lopez is both aggressive and very experienced racing on Monmouth’s speed-favoring track. This son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow will need a career-best performance to win, but he’s a must-use horse in exactas and trifectas. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won the 2009 Haskell with another Hall of Famer, the great filly Rachel Alexandra, who romped by six lengths during an undefeated campaign that earned her Horse of the Year honors. Jockey Lopez is a Monmouth Park mainstay and is leading all riders at the current meet in earnings through July 11. As such, he usually has a mount in the Haskell Stakes, but he’s yet to win the race. He came tantalizingly close last year aboard Ny Traffic, who rallied but came up a nose short to Authentic, and he finished third in 2019 on Spun to Run.

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

7. Basso (30-1)

Jockey: Isaac Castillo

Trainer: Greg Sacco

Owners: Michael Fazio and Monmouth Stud

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $41,520

Earnings per start: $8,304

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 82

Pedigree: Cairo Prince – Zapara, by Not For Love

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Basso is a good bet to carry the longest post-time odds in the Haskell field based on his career record and modest Equibase Speed Figures. He won his career debut last August at Monmouth Park and ran third in a six-furlong stakes race at the same track in September, but then finished fourth twice in his final starts as a 2-year-old and did not make his 3-year-old debut until June 26. In that start, he finished sixth in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race, defeated 9 ¼ lengths by Haskell foe and fellow longshot Antigravity. Even if Basso improves in his second start off the bench, it’s hard to see him making any impression in the Haskell. He’ll need to improve his career-best 82 Equibase Speed Figure by about 20 points just to hit the board, and that’s highly unlikely to say the least. Young jockey Isaac Castillo gets his first Haskell mount this year; he ranks third in wins and fourth in earnings at the current Monmouth meet through July 11.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!