Saturday is one of the biggest days on the horse racing calendar pre-Kentucky Derby. Monmouth Park is the host of a huge day of racing in New Jersey. The Haskell Invitational (Gr. 1) is the main event of the weekend. A $1,000,000 purse is at stake, along with a total of 170 points towards the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
The winner will get 100 points and an automatic ticket to Churchill Downs on Labor Day Weekend. Placing 2nd would be enough for some horses who need more points, while it would put others on the bubble. The Haskell Stakes is one of two races on the calendar left with 100 points awarded to the winner. The Travers on August 8 will be the final event with 170 points available.
Bob Baffert has had a really rough couple of months, but can make amends with a win from Authentic in the Haskell Stakes today. If he has a bad run, it’ll only add to his headaches. Baffert’s Charlatan was recently DQ’d after testing positive for a banned substance on May 2 in the Arkansas Derby.
Gamine also received a DQ for having lidocaine in her system as well. Authentic is one of his best hopes for a Kentucky Derby win, so good form would be a welcome sign from him today. Besides Authentic, Baffert has an opportunity to win the Derby with Cezanne.
It’s almost Derby Day at Churchill Downs, but before we get there, we still have a lot of racing to get to. There is a total of $2,60,375 available at Monmouth Park today. Head below for our free Haskell Stakes and Monmouth Park picks for July 18, 2020.
Race 11 – United Nations Stakes
Post Time: 5:10 p.m. EST
Distance: 1 ⅜ Miles
The United Nations Stakes (Gr. 1) is the biggest turf race of the day with a $300,000 purse being offered up. It’s tied for the second biggest purse of the day with the Monmouth Cup (Gr. 3). The United Nations Stakes features 1 ⅜ miles on the grass in one of the more notable turf races of the year.
Arklow, Standard Deviation, and Aquaphobia are on my shortlist for Race 11. Aquaphobia may not get much attention, and should have some value at post time. He is 8 for 35 in his career, with his most recent victory in the $60,000 Old Man Eloquent Stakes (Black Type) on February 17.
Aquaphobia followed up for 4th in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes (Gr. 2) on March 12, 2nd in the $75,000 Sunshine Forever Stakes (Black Type), and 4th in the $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes (Gr. 2). This class has been just out of reach for Aquaphobia in the past, but all of those runs were in good form. There wasn’t anything wrong there for Aquaphobia. He just needed to catch a break and it wasn’t there.
It’s possible that he gets it on Saturday in the United Nations Stakes. In two workouts in July, Aquaphobia posted times of 49.20 seconds over 4 furlongs and 1:00.40 over 5 furlongs. That’s adequate, but she is facing tough competition in the United Nations Stakes. If she can catch a break with Standard Deviation or Arklow getting caught in traffic, then Aquaphobia has a legitimate chance to win.
Standard Deviation is 3 for 12 in his career, with wins in the $75,000 Jersey Derby (Black Type) on August 18, 2019 and $75,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes (Black Type) on June 1, 2019, and a maiden event back in his debut on August 18, 2018. Since the Jersey Derby win, Standard Deviation ran well in the Hill Prince Stakes (Gr. 2) and Hollywood Derby (Gr. 1) for 3rd in each event. The Hollywood Derby was for $300,000, while the Hill Prince Stakes was for $400,000.
His most recent performance was a letdown, as Standard Deviation finished 6th in the Tiller Stakes (Black Type) on June 4 at Belmont Park. He had some kick at the top of the stretch, but not nearly enough. However, if Standard Deviation brings the same form to today from the Hill Prince Stakes and Hollywood Derby, then a win will be within reach.
Arklow has four stakes wins in his career, with the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (Gr. 1) on October 5, 2019 his most impressive. He also won the American Turf Stakes (Gr. 2) in 2017 and Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (Gr. 3) in 2018. Arklow came close in the $100,000 Louisville Stakes (Gr. 3) on June 13, but was beaten by a head at the wire.
Rust will not be a problem, as Arklow just raced in the $175,000 Elkhorn Stakes (Gr. 2) last week. It wasn’t a terrific run for 6th, but he is capable of more, and I wouldn’t say that this is a tougher event than last week. Arklow is the most accomplished horse in the United Nations Stakes and should run like it. I’m on the No. 1 horse named Arklow in Race 11.
Race 12 – Haskell Stakes
Post Time: 5:46 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The Haskell Invitational (Gr. 1) is the feature race of the day at Monmouth Park. That much is evident by the massive purse of $1,000,000. The fastest time over 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt will provide us with a winner on Saturday. Dr Post and Authentic could get into a duel in the stretch, but don’t ignore Ny Traffic.
Ny Traffic was my upset selection in the Matt Winn Stakes (Gr. 3) on May 23 at Churchill Downs and he nearly came through. Fortunately, I ultimately sided with Maxfield, which completed one leg of a Pick 5 win. Ny Traffic is getting much more respect following that performance.
Ny Traffic has finished in the top-3 in four straight events. He finished 3rd in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (Gr. 2), 2nd in the $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby (Gr. 2), and 2nd in the (Gr. 3) $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes. He keeps getting close and might be able to steal the attention from Dr Post and Authentic on Saturday in the Haskell Stakes.
The only problem with Ny Traffic is that he hasn’t proven to get over the hump, though. His two wins have been in a $90,000 maiden event and $51,000 allowance race. Until Ny Traffic can prove that he can do one better and finish the job, he’s going to continue to play second fiddle in these races. That’s not to say today isn’t the day for Ny Traffic.
Dr Post was on my shortlist in the Belmont Stakes and he nearly pulled it off. He finished 2nd behind Tiz the Law by 3 ¾ lengths to deny Dr Post of a hat-trick. That was by far the most difficult race of his career. After winning a maiden event and Unbridled Stakes (Black Type) April 25, Dr Post saw a significant class hike. Expect Dr Post to be hanging around the front once again in a big event on Saturday.
Bob Baffert’s Authentic, who at one point was the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, is looking to bounce back Saturday after finishing 2nd in the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1) on June 6. It was the first loss of Authentic’s career after a hat-trick in his first three races. After losing to Honor A. P., Authentic saw his Kentucky Derby backers bail. To that I say not so fast. This is still a terrific racehorse that could beat Honor A. P. in a rematch. He goes into Saturday in fantastic form after good work in the morning.
Authentic recently completed a mile workout with a time of 1:39.00 on July 4. He is more than ready to run a mile and ⅛ in the Haskell Stakes. Authentic looked strong again on July 11, with a time of 59.80 seconds over 4 furlongs. Baffert critics are waiting to throw gas on his fire right now, but I think he gets some redemption today. Look for Authentic to get back into the national discussion for the Kentucky Derby with a bold performance in the Haskell Stakes today.