By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Saratoga and Del Mar, the twin summer highlights of the US calendar, have both kicked into action this week – but this weekend’s feature is the $1m Haskell at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, where the new whip rules will be tested in a really significant event for the first time.
Haskell: Mandaloun heads Classic clash
Monmouth Park: Haskell Stakes $1m, 1m1f, dirt, 3yo (10.47pm BST)
A major skirmish for the Classic generation headed by Mandaloun (Brad Cox/Florent Geroux), the horse set to claim this year’s Kentucky Derby if Medina Spirit’s disqualification is ratified.
The Juddmonte colt got in some match practice with a workmanlike success at this venue a month ago in the designated trial, the Pegasus Stakes – but he faces stiff competition from Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill/Flavien Prat), third in Kentucky and second in the Belmont, plus Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen/Paco Lopez).
Don’t forget – New Jersey’s controversial whip rules are in play here, banning the instrument except for safety purposes. “How much are you going to take away from someone early that you won’t be able to get back late?” mused Asmussen.
It could work in his favour – Midnight Bourbon is a front-runner, generally quick away from the gate.
Shall we talk about it?
Hot Rod Charlie: “It shows they are quality horses when they can run at the top-class level and maintain that form. He came out of the Belmont great and there’s good spacing to the Haskell.” Doug O’Neill
Mandaloun: “Since the Kentucky Derby, he’s seemed to move forward with his works in the mornings when he’s by himself. He’s sharper than he was leading up to the Louisiana Derby or the Kentucky Derby, when he was not knowing what to do out there by himself. He’s a good horse and he’s been training extremely well. This is where we belong. I love this horse and I think it sets up nicely for us. What he did in the prep race is what he will probably do here, coming a little bit off it. There should be more pace in the Haskell than in the Pegasus.” Brad Cox
Midnight Bourbon: “I expect Midnight Bourbon to break well, and I think a sharp break for him is essential. There’s speed in the race and I think that will make it very interesting to the first turn. We’ve been very impressed with the way he’s trained since the Preakness. I feel he has physically developed and will be a better horse the rest of the year.” Steve Asmussen
Diana: Charlie Appleby vs Chad Brown
Saratoga: Diana Stakes G1 $500,000, 1m1f, turf, 4yo+ f/m (11.16pm BST)
After their one-two in the Just A Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Godolphin pair Althiqa and Summer Romance seek further G1 success for Charlie Appleby in New York. However, US turf maestro Chad Brown has a formidable record in this $500,000 contest, in which he is out to complete a six-timer. Lemista, a G2 winner in Ireland for former trainer Ger Lyons, looks his number one.
Shall we talk about it?
Althiqa/Summer Romance: “We were obviously delighted with Althiqa and Summer Romance in the Just a Game Stakes and they both came out of the race in good form. Nine furlongs is probably on the upper limit of Althiqa’s range but we feel it should be within her compass, while Summer Romance showed out in Dubai that she gets this trip well. They have been closely matched all year and we are hopeful that both fillies can once again be there in the finish.” Charlie Appleby
Lemista: “She’s a top-class filly. I have high hopes for her. We’ve been pointing for this race for a while and I’m excited to get to it. I think that the time has done her well. She’s been working consistently well.” Chad Brown
Pocket Square: “She missed her last work with the storms that came through and maybe the softish turf didn’t help [in the Just A Game]. I really thought she was lined up really well going into the Just a Game and I was hopeful she could overcome, but things just didn’t work out. She’s come back and worked really super, so I’m drawing a line through it and going right back at another Grade 1 with her.” Chad Brown