officials set the stage for the 2012 Haskell Invitational with a draw held in the Grandstand on Thursday afternoon to determine placement of the six thoroughbreds racing on Sunday.
A bugler heralded the official draw, which was attended by members of the press and local officials such as Mayor Michael Mahon and Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo. Monmouth Park announcer Larry Collmus served as the emcee for the event and conducted live remote interviews with all six horse trainers following the draw.
Five-time Haskell-winning trainer Bob Baffert said that the secret weapon to his winning streak — he's won the last two years — was grabbing a Max's hot dog before the race. "It usually works," he said to laughter, "but you can only have one."
Among the horses running in the $1 million race are the runner-up in the Belmont Stakes and another thoroughbred who shares the same owner as I'll Have Another, who famously dropped out of the Kentucky Derby at the last minute this year in his bid to capture the Triple Crown.
Paynter, who was nudged out of a Belmont win last month, is the 3-2 favorite in the Haskell.
Doug O'Neill, who is the trainer for Handsome Mike, said that his team is still floating after its brush with the Triple Crown. "It’s been fun so far this year and we’re still flying high," he said.
The Haskell is slated as the 13th race on a 14-race program with an estimated post of 6:17 p.m. The Haskell Day card will get under way at noon, with gates opening at 10 a.m. A limited number of reserved seats are still available and can be purchased by calling 732-571-5563, visiting the ticket booth sales office on the second floor of the Grandstand on any live race day or by visiting Ticketmaster.
The Haskell Field:PP Horse Jockey Odds 1. Nonios Corey Nakatani
7-2 2. Dullahan Kent Desormeaux 3-1 3. Paynter Rafael Bejarano
3-2 4. Gemologist Javier Castellano
3-1 5. Handsome Mike Mario Gutierrez
15-1 6. Stealcase Shaun Bridgmohan