Contenders, analysis as Jack Christopher and Taiba clash at Monmouth Park


The numbers are all there, from Grade 1 wins to showy speed numbers, while some of the racing’s most identifiable figures will be represented.

On paper, the 55th renewal of the $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park has the makings of one of the most competitive of all time.

The 1 1/8-mile anchors a map featuring five graduated-stakes races, including a pair of Tier 1 events.

And there are six confirmed entrants, you can expect race staff at Monmouth Park to try and round up one or two more ahead of Wednesday’s draw.

Here’s information and analysis on each contender, along with our thoughts on what the morning line could look like when it’s unveiled on Wednesday:

Jack Christopher with jockey Jose Ortiz, is mopped up after winning race six at Belmont Park Racecourse.

Jack Christopher 9/5

Coach: Chad Brown.

Owner: Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud, Peter M. Brant.

Jockey: Jose Ortiz.

The lightweight racing colt is perfect in four starts, sitting just off the initial pace each time before taking the lead to win by a combined 25 lengths. He is the only multiple Grade 1 winner in the field, having won the Champagne at Belmont Park last autumn, and achieved a speed figure of 107 Beyer in an impressive 10-length victory in Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park the Belmont Stakes Day which ranks as the highest in the field.

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But Jack Christopher didn’t win beyond a mile or so two laps, so questions remain. Son of Munnings, third in the 2009 Haskell behind Preakness winning filly Rachel Alexandra and Belmont winner Summer Bird, Jack Christopher has plenty of speed in a race that requires you to be close to the front. Now he’s tasked with carrying that speed to nine furlongs.

Brown won the Haskell with Good Magic in 2018.

In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, Taiba and jockey Mike Smith win the $750,000 Class I Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.  (Benoit Photo via AP)

Taiba 3-1

Coach: Bob Baffert.

Owner: Zedan Racing Stables.

Jockey: Mike Smith.

The son of young hot bull Gun Runner was recently returned to the Baffert stable after making two starts for former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen while Baffert was suspended. With just three career starts, Taiba won at nine furlongs, winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, with a speed figure of 102 Beyer, on April 9. It came after a 103 Beyer breaking up his young daughter in Santa Anita a month earlier. The only blemish in three starts came in the Kentucky Derby last time out, getting caught a little too close to a suicidal early pace, eventually finishing 12th.

Since then, Taiba has had some impressive drives, including four balls at Santa Anita. Taiba flashed the kind of speed Haskell typically demands, and might be able to wire the pitch with a good break, like Baffert’s Authentic did two years ago.

Baffert has won the Haskell a record nine times and never missed the board in 15 career starts, with his runners earning $7.3 million.

Cyberknife with jockey Florent Geroux during the post parade during the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cyberknife 6-1

Coach: Brad Cox.

Owner: Golden Square LLC.

Jockey: Florent Geroux.

Another Gun Runner son who won year one, Cyberknife became a top 3-year-old contender with a win in the Arkansas Derby, using strong movement around the bend in the nine furlong test to win impressively. But Cyberknife was another victim of Kentucky Derby pace, running just behind the leaders before fading to finish 18th. But the rebounding performance was the best effort of his career, putting his nose to the wire to beat Howling Time in Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 12, credited with a 94 Beyer Speed ​​Figure.

Cyberknife is more comfortable sitting right off the beat, like most of Haskell’s competitors. He will likely have to run the best race of his career, which includes four wins in his last six starts. Gun Runner closed out his career with five straight wins as a freshman, but finished fifth behind Preakness winner Exaggerator in the 2016 Haskell.

Cox won the Haskell last year with Mandaloun, elevated to first place in the 2021 Kentucky Derby earlier this year, after Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified for interference.

White Abarrio with jockey Tyler Gaffalione during the post parade during the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Abarrio white 8-1

Coach: Saffie Joseph.

Owner: C2 Racing Stable LLC., La Milagrosa Stable LLC.

Jockey: Tyler Gaffilione.

Comes second in the Ohio Derby in Grade 3 behind Tawny Port, seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Like Taiba and Cyberknife, White Abarrio ran poorly in the Kentucky Derby, getting stuck on the first turn and never challenging, finished 16th. The colt was a Triple Crown trail star with a career-best 97 Beyer winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in February, before annexing the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

White Abarrio’s best is good enough to make him a major player in this race. With a running style that allows him to keep pace, he’ll have plenty of company trying to get right out of his head.

Joseph came close to winning the Haskell two years ago when Ny Traffic rallied deep in the stretch and lost by a nose to eventual Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic.

Howling Time 15-1

Coach: Dale Romans.

Owner: Albaugh family stable.

Jockey: Joe Talamo.

Looms as one of the more intriguing entrants, and one that could impact the outcome. Howling Time has found its form as a favorite. After topping the field by five lengths in the allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 21, Howling Time nearly did it again in Grade 3 Matt Winn, falling at Cyberknife by a nose on June 12. The final preparation was a 59.80 second five- long slog at Churchill Downs on June 16th.

Look for Howling Time to try to get to the front at a reasonable pace and try to hold on. It won’t be easy given the competition, but Howling Time is improving, with a record 94 Beyer Speed ​​Figure last time out.

The Romans last had a Haskell entrant in 2019, when Everfast finished fourth behind Maximum Security.

Benevengo 25-1

Coach: Jesus Cross.

Owners: Wasabi Ventures Stables.

Jockey: Isaac Castillo.

Based at Monmouth Park, Benevengo takes a big step up in class in the first graduate stake of his career. Benevengo was claimed for $25,000 in the first race at Tampa Bay Downs on February 16, winning that first start by 9 1/2 lengths. After another win in Tampa, the Gormley colt finished fourth behind Dash Attack in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth.

Benevengo just won allowance at Monmouth, shooting for 3 1/2. Two of his three career wins have come up front, and he could be near the lead early on.


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