Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Nomination Is In: August 2, 2009; The Haskell Grade I

It's hard to believe that one year ago that monster colt to the left, Big Brown, was stepping onto the last racetrack he'd ever menace, Monmouth Park, the scene of his last major victory in The Haskell Invitational. He was only the second Kentucky Derby winner to win the Haskell Invitational, the other being War Emblem in 2002.

Today's edition of the 42nd running of the Haskell Invitational, named for the former President and Chairman of the Board of Monmouth Park, Mr. Armory Haskell, features another feared runner who will go off at ridiculously low odds, the Preakness and three time Grade I stakes winner, Rachel Alexandra. She is challenged primarily by the Belmont Stakes Winner, Summer Bird, Grade II winners Papa Clem and Munnings, and the classy and now royal, Atomic Rain.

Race 13 Monmouth Park; Post Time 6:15 ET; The Haskell Invitational Grade I; 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 3 YOs.

This is a handicap you'll have to tie to the weather very closely. The hour by hour forecast for Oceanport, NJ today shows some very severe weather around 3 to 4 PM with 40-60% precipitation most of the afternoon. You can find the track condition updated regularly at the Monmouth Park website.

I don't know how you don't support Rachel Alexandra to win if based solely on the numbers, trips and body of work. The filly has posted 6 straight 100+ Beyer Speed Figs and has trained very fast since her 19 length victory in the Mother Goose in late June. She also has the highest lifetime speed fig on an off track at 103. I'm hunting for exotics, so I will wheel, key or build a matrix around Rachel Alexandra winning and if she doesn't, someone other then this Turk will be happy.

The pace scenario for this race is hard to figure, but most likely Rachel Alexandra will go to the front or just outside and back of the pace setter. The seven furlong flash Munnings, coming in with back to back wins and 2 straight 110+ BSFs looks to strike the front early and bring some heat. Another who may press the pace is the unlikely top four finisher Duke of Mischief. It's a stretch but I'm leaning towards the speed sustaining 2 extra furlongs for Munnings and carrying him anywhere from second to fourth.

A strong collection of horses compete in this race, a notch below Rachel Alexandra, but fine Grade II challengers. Papa Clem I have fifth but could easily find the top 4. Atomic Rain and Summer Bird could easily flip flop around with Munnings.

Whats it all mean? Build a base handicap and then work your handicap. For me that means keeping Rachel Alexandra on top and inserting in combinations for the Exacta, Tri and Super. The overwhelming favorite that I think Rachel Alexandra will be with the betting public will make the needle on the risk/reward meter lean heavy towards risk. I'll take no more then 10-12 dollars and see if we can't make it into 50 or 60 dollars.

Good Luck and Turk Out!

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