Looking Beyond Authentic for 2020 Haskell Stakes Winner
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of Ellis Starr of America's Best Racing
This year’s Grade 1, $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes is both a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race and a “Win and You’re In” race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, so extra attention is warranted.
Seven 3-year-old colts are expected to line up, led by multiple stakes winner Authentic, who suffered the first defeat of his career last month when second in the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby after victories in both the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in January and Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March. His biggest opponent appears to be Dr Post, an improving colt who won the Unbridled Stakes in April before a runner-up finish behind division leader Tiz the Law in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets last month. Lebda is another with credentials in the division having won the Miracle Wood Stakes and Private Terms Stakes in February and March, respectively, before a sixth-place effort in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby June 27. Ny Traffic enters the race off back-to-back runner-up efforts in similar races in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby in March and then in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes in May. Ancient Warrior and Jesus’ Team are two horses that are trying stakes competition for the first time, while Fame to Famous has finished no better than fourth in three stakes tries to date and only one on dirt, in which he finished last of 11.
Dr Post appears capable of posting the very mild upset over betting favorite Authentic in this year’s Haskell. Two races back in his third career start, Dr Post tried two turns for the first time in the Unbridled Stakes and won very professionally, earning a then-career-best 101 Equibase Speed Figure. Stretching out to the distance of the Haskell last month in the Belmont Stakes, Dr Post closed from sixth in the early stages to finish second but was no match for Tiz the Law. Considering no horse has been a match for Tiz the Law in months, I think that effort is akin to running a winning race. The new career-best 107 figure was significant as well, as it was higher than the 105 and 101 figures Authentic earned in his two most recent starts. While the figures Authentic has earned are on a declining pattern, Dr Post is on an improving pattern and that is why he should win the Haskell.
Ancient Warrior is my longshot play to possibly split the two betting favorites, Authentic and Dr Post, by finishing second, although a huge upset win isn’t totally out of the question. Ancient Warrior stretches out to a route for the first time while making his second start after a 2 1/2-month rest. He earned a 92 Equibase Speed Figure in his prep race and a career-best 100 figure last fall in his first start. Although he has never raced in a stakes, Ancient Warrior has the class in his pedigree to contend here as he is by the sire Constitution, whose first 3-year-olds are on the track this year. Constitution is the sire of three horses that have made their mark in the division at some point since last fall – Independence Hall, Gouverneur Morris, and most importantly Derby points leader Tiz the Law. Stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to this 1 1/8-mile trip while stepping into stakes company for the first time may be a tall order, but considering Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer trains Ancient Warrior I have some confidence in the move. Hollendorfer has saddled 13 Grade 1 stakes winners to victory in route races over the past five years and if he believes the colt has what it takes to run well, I won’t argue.
Authentic is trainer Bob Baffert’s top Kentucky Derby prospect as he is tied for third on the “Road to the Derby” points leaderboard with 100 points. Authentic won the first three starts of his career, earning a career-best 113 figure in the Sham Stakes in January before a 105-figure effort in the San Felipe Stakes. Stretching out to the distance of the Haskell for the Santa Anita Derby last month, Authentic was no match for winner Honor A. P. and regressed again in terms of how fast he ran to a 101 figure. It does appear as the distances are getting longer, Authentic is not running as fast, and that may be due to his breeding. According to STATS Race Lens, although sire Into Mischief has produced many stakes winners, the record of his sons and daughters at distances of nine to 10 furlongs in stakes on dirt is just 4-for-58 in the last five years. It must be noted, however, that record includes two very good 3-year-old colts in 2018 Florida Derby winner Audible and 2019 Ohio Derby winner Owendale.
The rest of the field (with best Equibas Speed Figure): Fame to Famous (96), Jesus’ Team (106), Lebda (91) and Ny Traffic (99).
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