2023 Haskell Invitational Stakes Preview

The Grade 1 Haskell Stakes is the first major race for three-year-olds of the summer season. The purse is a cool $1 million, and a field of eight of the best sophomores in the country will line up to go 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt at Monmouth.

The Grade 1 Haskell Stakes is the first major race for three-year-olds of the summer season. The purse is a cool $1 million, and a field of eight of the best sophomores in the country will line up to go 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt at Monmouth. Better yet, there isn’t just the money: the winner also earns a Win and You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and this is the only place to earn such a berth while running against age-restricted company.

The race always draws the biggest names in the division. Last year, Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife got up in stakes-record time over Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba and the previously undefeated Jack Christopher to take top honors. This year, the field for the Haskell Stakes features the return of Kentucky Derby winner Mage, making his first start since running third in the Preakness Stakes.

Haskell Invitational Information

Race Date: Saturday, July 22
Track: Monmouth Park
Post Time: 5:45 p.m. Central Daylight Time
1 1/8 miles
Age/Sex: three-year-olds
Where to Watch: FanDuel TV, NBC, Peacock
Where to Bet: and FanDuel Racing

2023 Haskell Stakes Draw and Odds

This is the field for the 2023 Haskell Stakes, along with post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning lines for each horse.

1Geaux Rocket RideRichard MandellaMike Smith9-2
2Awesome StrongJorge DelgadoJose Batista30-1
3Salute the StarsBrad CoxJoel Rosario8-1
4MageGustavo DelgadoJavier Castellano3-1
5Tapit TriceTodd PletcherLuis Saez3-1
6HowgreatisnateElizabeth DoblesPaco Lopez20-1
7Extra AnejoSteve AsmussenTyler Gaffalione5-1
8Arabian KnightBob BaffertJohn Velazquez5-2

Haskell Invitational Stakes Prep Race Results

The eight horses in this year’s Haskell Stakes come out of seven different races. The only race that sends more than one horse to the Haskell is the ungraded Pegasus, a local prep race for the Haskell. Awesome Strong won the race in his stakes debut while mid-Atlantic fixture Howgreatisnate ran third, 2 ½ lengths back.

The only last-out graded winner is Arabian Knight, though he has not raced since winning the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn in January and cedes experience to the rest of the field. Mage and Tapit Trice both come out of third-place finishes in Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, respectively, and are the only Haskell runners who contested Triple Crown races at all.

Geaux Rocket Ride is the one other horse who comes out of a stakes race. He won the Affirmed on June 4, his first start since a second-place finish in the San Felipe (G2).

Two others come out of the allowance company. Awesome Strong was most recently fifth in an allowance-optional claimer at Delaware Park. He was facing older in his three-year-old debut, though last year he was, in fact, awesomely strong in Florida Sire Stakes races. Extra Anejo comes out of a win in a first-level dirt-mile allowance at Ellis against fellow sophomores; it was his second start of the year and his first at two turns, and the Haskell will be his stakes debut.

Haskell Stakes Contenders

These are the eight contenders in the 2023 Haskell Stakes:

Geaux Rocket Ride: Though a scratch from the Santa Anita Derby (G1) kept him off the Kentucky Derby trail, Geaux Rocket Ride was a good second in the San Felipe, and returned well in the Affirmed last month, winning it comfortably. It was not nearly as deep a field as the Haskell, and Geaux Rocket Ride will have to step up. But, his jockey Mike Smith has won the Haskell three times, and his tactical speed should allow him to carve out a nice trip on a speed-loving course like Monmouth.

Awesome Strong: He was undefeated in four starts at age two, including a sweep of three Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream. However, older allowance foes last out at Delaware proved too much in his seasonal return, where he finished just fifth. The step up in trip may help him, as might the shift to facing just his own age group, though he has yet to face horses of this class and will be a justified long shot.

Salute the Stars: He looked like a turf horse at age two but is showing himself on dirt this year. This son of Candy Ride made his stakes debut in the Pegasus, the local prep for the Haskell Stakes, for trainer Brad Cox. He did well, rallying from midfield to get up by a neck. He faces much tougher company in this spot, but not only is he going the right way, but his two-back allowance win at Churchill Downs showed he could handle 1 ⅛ miles, the distance of the Haskell. Especially on major days, the Monmouth course tends to be speed-favoring, but he has shown tactical speed in the past, and last out, he did prove he could close up ground on the Jersey shore.

Mage: The Kentucky Derby winner got a break after finishing third in the Preakness Stakes, but a summer campaign was the plan ever since the Preakness, and it’s a good thing that he has been working regularly and made this return in the Haskell. His outings in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby suggest that maybe closing is his best style, which isn’t the best on a big day at Monmouth Park. However, he has shown tactical speed in other races, and there is enough pace that if the track is playing even slightly fairly, he should be part of it at the end.

Tapit Trice: The Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and the Blue Grass Stakes made him look like one of the most exciting horses of his class, but both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes made him look a little underwhelming. A dedicated closer, the Monmouth Park surface may not play to his strengths, since it can be so speed-favoring. Perhaps the cut back to 1 ⅛ miles could help, but this really does look like Tapit Trice is getting the short end of the stick since stablemate Forte is going to the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) at the Spa, races that would probably fit Tapit Trice better than the Haskell.

Howgreatisnate: He has five wins, the most of anyone in the field, though they have come against ungraded mid-Atlantic company. His form has been decent since moving to the Elizabeth Dobles barn for the summer campaign. He won the Long Branch at Monmouth, then ran third behind Salute the Stars in the Pegasus there. His tactical speed is an asset, as is aggressive rider Paco Lopez. However, he has yet to face horses of this class, and coming up short in the Pegasus is not a good sign.

Extra Anejo: A buzz horse off of his first race, a maiden win at Keeneland, he got hurt and had to take the winter off instead of stepping onto the Kentucky Derby trail. He does not appear to have lost a step for trainer Steve Asmussen, as he finished second in a sprint allowance at Churchill Downs and then stretched out well to win a one-mile allowance at Ellis on June 10. That was his first try at two turns. And his tactical speed and relatively outside post make him a good fit for the Haskell.

Arabian Knight: The morning-line favorite for trainer Bob Baffert, Arabian Knight showed all the promise in the world when he romped in maiden company at Keeneland, and ran back to it when dominating a sloppy Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. However, he missed the rest of the Kentucky Derby trail and instead was freshened for a summer campaign. He has speed from the outside gate, giving him a good chance to get cleanly to the front; the question is whether he stays nine furlongs after setting a likely pressured pace.

Haskell Invitational Stakes FAQ

Q: When is the Haskell Stakes?
A: The Haskell Stakes happens Saturday, July 22, 2023, at 5:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Q: Where is the Haskell Stakes?
A: The Haskell Stakes is the feature race of the summer season at Monmouth Park. It is carded as the 12th on Monmouth’s marathon 14-race card on Saturday.

Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Haskell Stakes?
A: Bob Baffert has established himself as king of the Haskell, with nine victories in the race, most recently in 2020 with Authentic, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic as well. He came close last year with Taiba, who finished just behind Cyberknife but still ahead of previously undefeated Jack Christopher. Baffert entered Arabian Knight in the 2023 edition of the Haskell Stakes.

Q: Who is the favorite for the Haskell Stakes?
A: Arabian Lion, who won the Southwest for trainer Bob Baffert, was named the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Haskell Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner Mage and Blue Grass Stakes winner Tapit Trice were both named the 3-1 co-second favorites on the morning line. On race day, none of these three horses would be a surprise as a post-time favorite.

Q: Who is the best Haskell Stakes jockey?
A: Three riders have won the Haskell three times: Craig Perret, Martin Garcia, and Mike Smith. Smith will try to take the record for himself, as he has the call on Geaux Rocket Ride this year.

Q: Who won the Haskell Stakes in 2022?
A: Cyberknife won the 2022 Haskell Stakes for trainer Brad Cox and rider Florent Geroux. Cox returns in 2023 with Salute the Stars, though Geroux does not have a call in this year’s edition.