The numbers are all there, from the Grade 1 wins to the gaudy speed figures, while some of racing’s most identifiable figures will be represented.
On paper, the 55th renewal of the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park has the makings of one of the most competitive ever.
The 1 1/8-mile anchors a card featuring five graded stakes races, including a pair of Grade 1 events.
And there are six confirmed entrants, you can expect the Monmouth Park racing staff will try to round up one or two more before Wednesday’s post position draw.
Here is information and analysis on each contender:
Trainer: Chad Brown.
Owner: Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud, Peter M. Brant.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz.
The lightly raced colt is perfect in four starts, sitting just off the early pace each time before taking charge to win by a combined 25 lengths. He’s the only multiple Grade 1 winner in the field, having won the Champagne at Belmont Park last fall, and got a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in an impressive 10-length win in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day that ranks as the highest in the field.
But Jack Christopher has not won past a mile or around two turns, so questions remain. A son of Munnings, third in the 2009 Haskell behind Preakness-winning filly Rachel Alexandra and Belmont winner Summer Bird, Jack Christopher has plenty of speed in a race that requires you to be near the front. Now he’s tasked with carrying that speed over nine furlongs.
Brown won the Haskell with Good Magic in 2018.
Trainer: Bob Baffert.
Owner: Zedan Racing Stables.
Jockey: Mike Smith.
The son of hot young sire Gun Runner was recently returned to Baffert’s barn after making two starts for former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen while Baffert was suspended. With just three career starts, Taiba has won at nine furlongs, taking the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, on April 9. That came after a 103 Beyer in breaking his maiden at Santa Anita a month earlier. The only blemish in three starts came in the Kentucky Derby last time out, getting caught a little too close to a suicidal early pace, eventually finishing 12th.
Since then, Taiba has ripped off some impressive workouts, including four bullet works at Santa Anita. Taiba has flashed the type of speed the Haskell generally demands, and might be capable of wiring the field with a good break, like Baffert’s Authentic did two years ago.
Baffert has won the Haskell a record nine times, and has never missed the board in 15 career starts, with his runners earning $7.3 million.
Trainer: Brad Cox.
Owner: Gold Square LLC.
Jockey: Florent Geroux.
Another Grade 1 winning son of Gun Runner, Cyberknife emerged as a top 3-year-old contender with a victory in the Arkansas Derby, using a strong move around the turn in the nine furlong test to win impressively. But Cyberknife was another victim of the Kentucky Derby pace, racing just behind the leaders before fading to finish 18th. But the bounce-back performance was the best effort of his career, putting a nose in front at the wire to beat Howling Time in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 12, credited with a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.
Cyberknife is most comfortable sitting just off the pace, like most of the Haskell contenders. He will likely need to run the best race of his career, which includes four victories in his last six starts. Gun Runner closed his career with five straight Grade 1 wins, but finished fifth behind Preakness winner Exaggerator in the 2016 Haskell.
Cox won the Haskell last year with Mandaloun, the elevated to the top spot in the 2021 Kentucky Derby earlier this year, after Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified for interference.
Trainer: Saffie Jospeh.
Owner: C2 Racing Stable LLC., La Milagrosa Stable LLC.
Jockey: Joel Rosario.
Comes in off a second in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby behind Tawny Port, seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Like Taiba and Cyberknife, White Abarrio ran poorly in the Kentucky Derby, getting stuck wide around the first turn and never challenging, finish 16th. The colt was a star of Triple Crown trail with a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in February, before annexing the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
White Abarrio’s best is good enough to make him a major player in this race. With a running style that has him stalking the pace, he’ll have plenty of company trying to come from just off the lead.
Joseph nearly won the Haskell two years ago when Ny Traffic rallied deep in the stretch and lost by a nose to Authentic, the eventual Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.
Trainer: Dale Romans.
Owner: Albaugh Family Stable.
Jockey: Joe Talamo.
Looms as one of the most intriguing entrants, and one who could have an impact on the outcome. Howling Time has found his form as a frontrunner. After wiring the field by five lengths in allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 21, Howling Time nearly did it again in the Grade 3 Matt Winn, falling to Cyberknife by a nose on June 12. The final prep was a 59.80-second five-furlong work at Churchill Downs on June 16.
Look for Howling Time to try to get to the front on a reasonable pace and try to hold on. That won’t be easy given the competition, but Howling Time is improving, coming off a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure last time out.
Romans last had a Haskell entrant in 2019, when Everfast finished fourth behind Maximum Security.
Trainer: Jesus Cruz.
Owners: Wasabi Ventures Stables.
Jockey: Isaac Castillo.
Based at Monmouth Park, Benevengo takes a big step up in class in the first graded stake of his career. Benevengo was claimed for $25,000 out of maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 16, winning that first start by 9 1/2 lengths. After another win at Tampa, the Gormley colt finished fourth behind Dash Attack in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth.
Benevengo comes in off an allowance win at Monmouth, drawing off for a 3 1/2-length score. Two of his three career wins have come on the front end, and he could be near the lead early on.
King of Hollywood
Trainer: Gregg Sacco.
Owner: Monmouth Stud and Pinnacle Racing.
Jockey: Nik Juarez
A last-minute entrant, King of Hollywood comes off a seventh-place finish in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, where he is stabled. Prior to that race, King of Hollywood was n impressive allowance winner at Monmouth. With 13 career starts, King of Hollywood is the most experienced horse in the race.
One Time Willard
Trainer: John Stephens.
Owner: Barrister Breeding LLC.
Jockey: Paco Lopez
A last-minute entrant, this son of Mircromanage has not won beyond the maiden ranks. In his last start, One Time Willard finished third in a Monmouth Park allowance race. Two starts back, the New Jersey bred was fourth in a black-type stake at Belmont Park. He would be only the second Jersey-bred to win the Haskell, joining 1980 winner Thanks to Tony.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Haskell 2022: Contenders, analysis as Jack Christopher, Taiba clash