Haskell Preview: Recent Works and New Shooters

July 22, 2022

It’s one day until the TVG.com Haskell so let’s take a deep look at the field. We know what the Grade 1 winners have done but there are some lesser known starters. And even some of the more accomplished runners might have a few quirks–like routing for the first time. See who you might want to pick as your over and maybe your under.

Bob Baffert’s Tabia, the 7/5 favorite, won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in only his second outing rallying from third to beat stablemate Messier by 2 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles.

Zedan Racing Stable’s Taiba galloped 1¼ miles on Thursday under the supervision of Jimmy Barnes, the assistant to Hall of Fame trainer and Haskell record holder Baffert, who is seeking his 10th victory in the race.

Morning Line Favorite for the $1,000,000 Haskell Stakes, Taiba with exercise rider Na Somsanith, gallops on the track at Monmouth Friday morning Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Santa Anita7/15/2022Dirt5F59.40Handily2/56
Santa Anita7/7/2022Dirt6F1:12.00Handily from the gate1/1

All works are the latest posted on Equibase.

Taiba: 2022 Santa Anita Derby

Jack Christopher winning his first stakes, graded stakes, grade 1 and follow up to winning his debut—the Champagne at Belmont. Oct. 2, 2021. (NYRA/Coglianese)
Jack Christopher in a June 4 work at Belmont Park. (Susie Raisher) 

At 3/2, Jack Christopher remains undefeated having won his four career outings. The son of Munnings has two Grade one wins—the Champagne and Woody Stephens—plus the Grade 2 Pat Dayle Mile under his belt after winning his debut. 

However, the Chad Brown trainee will be trying two turns for the first time while going beyond a mile for the first time as well. 

Jack Christopher is due to ship to Monmouth from Belmont on Saturday morning.

Belmont Park7/16/2022Dirt4F49.80Breezing53/81
Belmont Park7/8/2022Dirt5F1:01.41Breezing4/6
Belmont Park7/1/2022Dirt5F1:00.80Breezing3/5

Jack Christopher: 2022 Woody Stephens at Belmont.

Cyberknife trains for The Haskell, Photo Bill Denver, Equi Photo
Cyberknife with exercise rider Katie Tolbert enjoys a morning workout on Thursday. Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Brad Cox trained Cyberknife was the winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. In that last contest, the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs at 1 1/16 miles, Cyberknife sat right off the heels of Howling Time as that colt set all the fractions and then Cyberknife would prevail in a deep stretch battle to get his nose in front at the wire.

Cyberknife galloped one mile and is set to school in the paddock and gallop again on Friday. He is posted at odds of 6-1.

Belmont Park7/16/2022Dirt4F49.80Breezing53/81
Belmont Park7/8/2022Dirt5F1:01.41Breezing4/6
Belmont Park7/1/2022Dirt5F1:00.80Breezing3/5

Cyberknife: 2022 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.

Haskell Stakes contender White Abarrio with groom Eduardo Diaz after arriving from South Florida on Wednesday morning.  Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Morning Workouts at Monmouth Park. Photo by Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

White Abarrio conditioned by Saffie Joseph, Jr., was the winner of the Grade 1 Florida Deby. The Race Day colt also won the Grade 3 Holy Bull and placed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and the Ohio Derby. In fact, he’s been in the money for six of his seven career starts which is exactly why he is the third odds choice at 5-1.

White Abarrio, named for his stunning white coat color, made a striking appearance as he galloped 1¼ miles with a purpose around the Monmouth Park oval on at 6:45 a.m. Thursday.

“This horse is all business. We’re seeing all good signs and all the right signs from him,” said Washonn Rochester, the assistant to trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. “He’s settled in comfortably since getting here on Tuesday from Gulfstream Park. He’s settled in good.”

With three different winners of this year’s Triple Crown and not a single horse yet stamping himself as the leader of the 3-year-old division, combined with what is known as the start of the “second season” for sophomore runners, White Abarrio’s connections know that the Haskell presents an excellent opportunity to separate himself from the rest of the herd. 

“This is a very big race for him, and the Haskell is a prestigious race. It is a really important race. It would be a feather in his cap if he wins,” said Rochester, who has worked with Joseph for six years. “It will show us and everyone where he is at this stage and in his class, and if he is going on to the next level.”

The Haskell is a “Win and You’re In” race for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5, with the Haskell winner receiving an all-fees paid, guaranteed spot in the Classic starting gate.

Joel Rosario, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning jockey, will be aboard White Abarrio for the first time when the son of Race Day takes on fellow Grade 1 winners Cyberknife, Jack Christopher, and Taiba in a field loaded with speed that includes Benevengo, Howling Time, King of Hollywood and One Time Willard.

“This horse can go to the lead or sit off the pace. He’s versatile and Joel is a very good and very experienced rider,” Rochester said. “The mile-and-an-eighth distance is his wheelhouse. He likes it. We’re looking forward to the race.

Joseph is due to arrive at Monmouth late Thursday or Friday morning and then will decide the colt’s plans for Friday. White Abarrio is the colorbearer for C2 Racing and La Milagrosa Stable and brothers Clint and Mark Cornett of C2 Racing are expected to be on hand on Saturday.

Gulfstream Park7/18/2022Dirt5F1:01.62Breezing4/11
Gulfstream Park7/10/2022Dirt4F48.57Breezing18/74

White Abarrio: 2022 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

So, what has Howling Time, Benevengo, One Time Willard, and King of Hollywood have been up to?

Howling Time jogs on the track with exercise rider Ziggy Golibrzuch on Wednesday morning at Monmouth Park. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Howling Time, who comes from the barn of Eclipse Award winner Dale Romans. In his last outing Howling Time set all the fractions in the G3 Matt Winn only to be beat by a nose at the wire by Cyberknife.

Romans knows this is the time for the colt to shine. What better time could there be than on the biggest stage under the brightest lights?

“This is a statement race,” he said. “We could have gone in a lot of other directions, and taken a lot easier path, but the Haskell is the Haskell, and we want to play with the big boys.

“There are four Grade 1 winners coming together here and a couple of up-and-comers, so it is an important race with the whole division so wide open. I think it’s a solid division. I haven’t seen a superstar yet, but I think it’s a solid division. It seems to me there are a lot of horses who don’t want to go the Classic distances, but we’ll see.

“We’ve got two more big time races for 3-year-olds (The Runhappy Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby). Let it sort itself out and then see who can compete with the older horses. This is a great opportunity for him (Howling Time) to step up and move forward and put himself in contention. It’s break-through time.”

Albaugh Family Stables’ Howling Time is by Not This Time, who is out of the graded stakes winning, track record-setting sprinter Miss Macy Sue. Romans considers Not this Time the best horse he ever trained.

Howling Time is out of Werewolf — hence his name — and in his last effort in the1 1/16 miles Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes he set every fraction before fellow Haskell contender Cyberknife caught him at the wire and just got his nose down.

Romans thinks that experience can only benefit his charge.

“That last race was gutsy. He impressed me. They went nose to nose for a quarter mile. That was his best race he’s ever run. I’m not so sure he really lost. That was a good performance.” said Romans. “He’s on the ascent. He’s getting better all the time. If he brings his A game and steps up a little bit, he’ll be in the thick of it.”

Howling Time galloped 1½ miles on Thursday morning and on Friday will school at the gate and in the paddock.

Churchill Downs7/16/2022Dirt5F59.80Breezing2/19
Churchill Downs7/9/2022Dirt5F1:00.20Breezing3/18
Churchill Downs7/3/2022Dirt4F50.20Breezing72/97

Howling Time: The 2022 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Gregg Sacco (R) and son Will at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ on Wednesday morning. Sacco has entered King of Hollywood in Saturday’s Haskell Stakes. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Haskell contender King of Hollywood stands on the track with exercise rider Alex Orantes prior to a morning jog at Monmouth Park. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

King of Hollywood, who is co-owned and trained by Monmouth Park training mainstay Gregg Sacco, will have home track advantage when he’s led over from his stall on Saturday.

“This is a major event. My family has been racing here since 1946. We’ll see what happens. We’re glad to participate with a horse we think has a chance of picking up a piece,” said Sacco, a third generation New Jersey horseman whose son, Will, is carrying on the family tradition as his assistant.

Sacco said that when the son of Palace Malice last raced here in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, which is the last local Haskell prep race, he hoped it would be a springboard to the big event. The colt finished last, but he had a legitimate excuse. 

“He came out of the race with both eyes closed shut. We treated him for five days. It was pretty serious,” said Sacco, who saddle Basso to a fifth-place finish in last year’s Haskell. “Then we didn’t have anything scheduled. But we trained for this, if the race was to our liking.  

“This is a dynamite race. It’s packed with speed. We’re going to take back and see the field, and when the running starts see if we can grab a share.”

King of Hollywood didn’t break his maiden until his 10th start. He has a career record of 13: 2-2-2. He will break from post 5 with odds of 30-1.

Monmouth Park7/16/2022Dirt4F51.40Breezing115/126
Monmouth Park7/8/2022Dirt4F48.00Handily6/56

King of Hollywood: Race 6 AOC at Monmouth Park May 29, 2022. 

Benevengo with Trainer Jessie Cruz (R) and Assistant Trainer/Girlfriend Grace Smith at Monmouth Park. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Benevengo, by Gormley out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare On High Alert, is giving Cruz and his assistant and girlfriend Grace Smith all the signals that he’s sitting on go for the Haskell. He’s fired bullets on this track in his last two works at five furlongs and he does have the home track advantage.

He broke his maiden by 9 1/2 lengths at six furlongs. He won at 1 1/16 miles by 3 1/2 lengths last out June 24 at Monmouth in an AOC. He’s 3 for 4, never finished off the board. Benevengo should not be overlooked.

“The horse is doing super. We know we’re going to be a longshot. We’re stepping up from another than to Grade 1 and that’s a pretty big task, but the horse is doing well and he’s training well,” said Cruz,” who gallops “Benny” himself. “We get to walk out of our own stall and walk over to the track he trains over every day to, hopefully, win a Grade 1 and one of the most historic races in the country.

“I do think that whenever you don’t have to ship it’s always an advantage. When you don’t have to take them out of their normal, everyday routine it’s always a good thing.”

Cruz is confident that on Saturday when he leads over “Benny,” the colt will be primed to perform at his best.

“The big thing with Benevengo is that I don’t think we’ve found the bottom with him yet,” he said. “I know he’s prepared to run in this race. We’re excited. We’ve checked all the boxes and we’ve done all the correct things.”

Owned by Wasabi Ventures Stables, Cruz hooked up with Wasabi when he called manager TK Keugler in 2018. Cruz and Keugler have been together ever since.

“We’re a pretty good team,” said the now 28-year-old Cruz, who trains 15 of the 18 horses in his Monmouth Park-based outfit for Wasabi Ventures Stables. “We’ve had a lot of success together, that’s for sure.”

The stable notched its initial and only stakes score on June 19 in the $75,000 All Brandy at Laurel Park with Why Not Tonight, and that win was also the first and only in a stakes race for Cruz. Now the team is poised to elevate its success to the top level when Benevengo competes in the Grade 1 Haskell.

Benevengo, whom Keugler haltered for $25,000 out of a maiden claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs (which the colt won by 9½ lengths in his first career outing in February), was fourth in the Long Branch Stakes after enduring a nightmare trip on a sloppy Monmouth strip two starts back and then won a first level optional claiming race here one month ago.

Benevengo breaks from post 8 with 20-1 odds.

Monmouth Park7/16/2022Dirt5F58.80Handily1/15
Monmouth Park7/9/2022Dirt5F59.20Breezing1/12

Benevego: Race 8 AOC at Monmouth Park June 24, 2022.

Barrister Breeding LLC’s homebred One Time Willard is trained by John D. Stephens, also based at Monmouth Park. The Micromanage gelding has has five career starts, four this year, with one win and three thirds. His last start was July 15 in a six furlongs AOC where he finished third by a nose. On June 19 he ran in the seven furlongs New York Stallion Stake at Belmont finishing fourth being bumped twice. The longest race the bay gelding has run is one mile and 70 yards. Out of Unbridled Jet mare Pinot Grigio, One Time Willard will be ridden by his regular rider at Monmouth, Paco Lopez who is also the leading rider at Monmouth. He breaks from post 3 with generous odds of 30-1.

Monmouth Park6/14/2022Dirt4F47.80Handily2/79

Race 4 MSW at Monmouth Park May 8, 2022.

By Maribeth Kalinich, Lynne Snierson and Tom Lucci
Main Photo Taiba feeling spunky as he makes his way off the track after a Wednesday morning gallop with exercise rider Na Somsanith and groom Roberto Luna. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

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