While Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom continues to recover from a successful surgery earlier this month, the other two triple crown winners return to the East Coast for the $1 million G1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice will headline the race and hope to make a big difference in the battle to become the 2011 3-year-old Champion. One reason the Haskell is such a big stepping stone in their bid for becoming the 3 yr old champ is that this is the first race in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, Classic Division, that is strictly for 3 yr olds. So a win on Sunday will guarantee one of these 3 yr olds a spot in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Even if Animal Kingdom were racing, it would be a challenge for him to win based on the races’ history. Since its inaugural running in 1968 only 2 winners came from the winners circle at the Kentucky Derby (Big Brown ’08, War Emblem ’02). The winners in the last two years, Lookin at Lucky and Rachel Alexandra, came into this race looking to continue their win streaks. So Ruler on Ice is in position to keep that trend going. Shackleford’s last race was also the Belmont Stakes so he is looking to get back on the winning track.
Since Shackleford’s trainer Dale Romans decided to give his colt a short break at WinStar Farm in Versailles, KY following the Belmont Stakes it was an easy decision to move him to Churchill Downs to begin his training. Having trained there at Roman’s home base over the last few weeks, it wasn’t until this morning that Shackleford officially arrived at Monmouth Park. With final works already being taken care of before leaving, he is only expected to gallop over the surface before race day. On the other end is Ruler on Ice who has held camp at Monmouth since the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Kelly Breen is locally based so they officially hold home court advantage.
Shackleford — All at Churchill Downs:
- 7/24/11 Dirt 5F 59.20
- 7/17/11 Dirt 5F 59.60
- 7/10/11 Dirt 4F 48.40
Ruler on Ice — All at Monmouth Park
- 7/24/11 Dirt 4F 47.60
- 7/17/11 Dirt 5F 1:02.60
- 6/27/11 Dirt 4F 49.40
The works look strong and both are reported to be in good form coming out of a short lay off. One thing to consider though is that not much has changed since our Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown coverage. Going into Sunday things clearly remain wide open in this race. Wide open as well, is identifying who will likely become the front-runner for the 2011 3 yr old champion award. Even though 7 of the last 10 winners of the Haskell have gone onto become the 3-year-old champion, it is premature to expect that outcome in 2011. We’ve seen it all so far this year. From likely favorites getting hung up or set back due to injury all the way to improbable upsets. After Animal Kingdom and Shackleford set themselves up for a possible Belmont Stakes showdown, it was Ruler on Ice who stole the show. So now with Animal Kingdom likely out for the remainder of the year, the front-runners that are left for 3-year-old champion by default are the other 2 triple crown winners. But 2011 hasn’t produced too many low odds winners in the 3-yr-old class thus far. So don’t count out a bid from the other likely contenders in the Haskell on Sunday: Astrology, Coil, Concealed Identity, JJ’s Lucky Train, Pants on Fire and Joe Vann.
Written by: Little Brink