Let’s look at some spots on the Haskell Day card at Monmouth Park.
Haskell Invitational (Race 12) – While it appears #4 Practical Joke (4-1) is better at one-turn, he is still a solid runner going two-turns and if he is going to win a Grade 1 going 9 furlongs, he’s going to do it here at Monmouth. This Chad Brown runner has tactical speed to stay close and ran very well last time in the Dwyer, running down Battalion Runner after some moderate early fractions. The pace here should be solid, with Irish War Cry drawn inside of Battle of Midway and Timeline. That should help set up the off-the-pace runners and we think Practical Joke is the best of that group. However, we’ll also use #5 McCraken (9-2). He was probably a short horse in the Blue Grass after his injury. He was very wide in the Derby when inside runners did best. Then last time, he won easily against a weak field but is cycling back towards the 95 Beyer he ran when winning the Sam Davis. He seems poised for another forward move. Practical Joke, however, is our top pick.
Molly Pitcher (Race 10) – Our pick is #5 Mo’Green (4-1). She got good over the winter and while didn’t run well last time at Delaware, that can be a quirky course that not all horses handle. She has races to get back to that others in the field simply do not, including Power of Snunner who beat Mo’Green in the Obeah on June 10th.
Race 8 (Jersey-bred allowance) – #6 Mello Groove (8-1) seems poised to run his best race here against Jersey breds. This is his fifth start of the meet and has run well in all four. On May 14th, he blew out an open-company allowance running fast enough to win this race. Three-back, he was compromised by a very slow pace. Two-back, he was a fine third behind two stakes horses and the winner, Ostrolenka, was second in a NY-bred stakes race on Thursday at Saratoga. Then last time, Mello Groove was a solid second going a mile, which is too far. The turnback suits him perfectly.
I’m also a little interested in #1 Bolting (12-1) in the Monmouth Stakes (Race 7). His Poker was a mess, which included yielding turf and a terrible break. His best races are on firm turf from Europe and if you draw a line through his US debut, maybe he can jump up and challenge obvious horse-to-beat Money Multiplier.