2011 Haskell Preview: Shackleford Favored, Locals 'Fire' and 'Ice' in Mix
Morning line favorite is trainer Dale Romans' Preakness winner, Baffert trying to go 5-for-5 with Coil, Farmingdale trainer Kelly Breen's two also looking to claim Monmouth's top prize
Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford is the morning line (5-2) favorite for the $1 Million Resorts Casino Haskell Invitational today at Monmouth Park, and Farmingdale trainer Kelly Breen's wily Belmont winner Ruler On Ice (ML 4-1) is seeking to give him a run for his money.
When the two horses last met at the Belmont Stakes on a wet Saturday in early June, Ruler On Ice charged through the mud past a tired Shackleford in the final turn of the one and a half mile course.
"I might come in the middle of the night and just flood the track," Ruler On Ice's jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr. joked at a Haskell Press Conference held Thursday.
Neither horse has raced since the Belmont. Dale Romans has been training Shackleford at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Ruler has been working with Breen at Monmouth.
Fire and Ice
Ruler On Ice is not the only horse that Breen and owners George and Lori Hall, of Rumson, have racing in the Haskell. Pants On Fire (ML 4-1) finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby and won the Pegasus Stakes here on June 18.
The duo of horses worked out together last Sunday, and will mark the second and third Haskell entries for Breen, who finished second in 2006 with Praying for Cash.
Jose Valdivia, Jr. will again take the reins for Ruler On Ice. Elvis Trujillo, who leads all Monmouth jockeys with 56 wins, will ride Pants On Fire.
Five Horses You Need to Know
Rounding out the field of eight elite three-year-olds slated for the 44th running of the Haskell Invitational are JJ's Lucky Train, Astrology, Concealed Identity, Joe Vann and Coil.
JJ's Lucky Train (ML 20-1) is trainer Bill Anderson's colt who won the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct on April 9.
Astrology (ML 9-2) is a colt owned by George Bolton and Stonestreet Stables, the Kentucky ownership team that produced two recent horses of the year in Rachel Alexandra and Curlin. Trained by Steve Asmussen (who also trained Rachel Alexandra and Curlin) Astrology finished sixth in the Iowa Derby on June 25 his last time out.
Concealed Identity (ML 12-1) is owned by Linda Gaudet and Monmouth Park's leaseholder for the next five years, Morris Bailey. Trained by Eddie Gaudet, Concealed Identity's last race saw him place behind Pants On Fire in the Pegasus Stakes.
According to a report by NJ.com, he only has one functioning eye, as he caught a splinter in his right eye last year which never healed.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who won his fourth Haskell last year with Lookin at Lucky, will try to go five-for-five, sending out Coil (ML 3-1), a colt owned by Glen Hill Farm.
Joe Vann (ML 15-1)was a late addition from Zayat Stables and trainer Todd A. Pletcher. He will have longtime Monmouth jockey Joe Bravo aboard. Bravo was born in Long Branch and currently lives in Eatontown.
Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is out for the season after suffering a slab fracture in his left hock (joint above the shin bone in back leg) in the Belmont Stakes.