2014 Haskell Invitational Picks with Bonus Jim Dandy Stakes Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/24/2014
The Triple Crown is in the distant past for this year, but things get interesting again on the three year old front this weekend as the Haskell Invitational and Jim Dandy Stakes mark the beginning of the summer three year old season and we begin the real road to the Breeders' Cup. With California Chrome's no-show in the Belmont, the division has opened up a bit, and an impressive win this weekend could put a horse in good shape on the road to a year-end championship. Here is how the two races break down with picks and predictions:
Haskell Invitational, Sunday, July 27, Monmouth Park
This is the one day a year that Monmouth Park is relevant as it hosts the second biggest three year old race of the summer after the Travers. For this year we have a strong field and a particularly compelling storyline.
California Chrome nearly won the Triple Crown, but he wasn't the most impressive three year old of the year so far. That honor belongs to Untapable (2/1 morning line), the filly that completely dominated the Kentucky Oaks and every other challenge she faced. Like super fillies Rags to Riches and Rachel Alexandra before her, she needs to take on the boys now because her own gender can offer no challenges. It went well for those two, and there is a good chance it can go well for Untapable, too. She is the real deal, and the excess of early speed in this race sets up well for her closing tendencies.
Social Inclusion (8/1) is an enigma. He is ridiculously fast, but was disappointing in his last two outings - including the Preakness. He was third both times, but he has real upside. His challenge here is that he is a frontrunner who will face a seriously-challenged pace. I really like the horse and hope for him to shine this year, but I don't feel like this is the spot.
Wildcat Red (10/1) was a horse I really liked heading into the Derby at nearly 20/1. I'm surprised he can enter this race, though, because last I checked he was still running - very slowly - towards the finish line at Churchill Downs. He has talent, but he's a speed horse that isn't as fast as Social Inclusion. I don't like the spot for him.
Medal Count (8/1) was a disappointing eighth in the Derby, but he bounced back to finish a strong third in the Belmont. He seems to be rounding into his own as the year progresses, and his upside is massive. He has been a trendy wiseguy pick in this race over the last few days, though, and that makes me nervous.
Bayern (5/2) skipped the Derby despite having earned a spot. He came back in the Preakness and was a total non-factor. He had an exceptional spring to get people excited but has struggled since. He has worked very well leading up to this race, though, and could be worth a gamble at the right price - but that right price won't be around if he goes off at close to his morning line price.
The rest of the field is made up of four horses that will beat me if they make the money because I have little respect for any of them - Albano (6/1), Encryption (20/1), Irish You Well (12/1) and Just Call Kenny (10/1). Albano is the third choice in the morning line because he won the local Haskell prep race, but there is just no value in the price.
Recommended bet: It is rarely a bad idea to bet on the best horse. Take Untapable to win.
Jim Dandy Stakes, Saturday, July 26, Saratoga
I will always have a soft spot for this, the key Saratoga prep for the Travers Stakes. In 2006 my wife and I attended the race and saw Bernardini win in what was unquestionably the most dominant performance I have witnessed with my own eyes. Check it out on Youtube if you want to feel some shivers.
The 2014 edition of the race doesn't have a horse like Bernardini in it, but it is a very compelling field nonetheless. Those who followed the Triple Crown will know four horses in the seven-horse field.
Tonalist (8/5) is making his return to racing after winning the Belmont Stakes when California Chrome failed to claim his Triple Crown. He's the favorite here, but he was given a break after the Belmont, and it's hard to believe he is at full strength yet. This feels like a sharpener before the main target - the Travers.
Wicked Strong (2/1) was fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, and he cost me money both times around. His race in the Belmont was particularly disappointing, but they are trying him in blinkers this time around, and I have high hopes for him.
Commanding Curve (5/1) was very impressive finishing second in the Derby. He seemed like he could run all day, but he was a total non-factor finishing ninth in the Belmont. I'm not convinced that this race is long enough for him.
Kid Cruz (8/1) was the local horse in the Preakness, and he did little. He was a non-threatening eighth. He was briefly pointed at the Belmont before looking elsewhere. He was a level below the best last time, and I think he still is. He is coming off a win last time out, though, and has trained well. I won't have him on top of my exotics, but he'll be on my tickets.
The other three horses that round out the field are less inspiring. Cousin Stephen (12/1) last won an allowance at lowly Parx Racing. This is a massive jump in class. Legend (12/1) was a well beaten second to Kid Cruz in the Easy Goer on June 7 in the last outing for both horses. Ulanbator (15/1) has been an also-ran in lower level stakes this spring and just doesn't seem to have a lot to offer. All three are pretty easy to toss out.
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Recommended bets: Wicked Strong to win, exacta with Wicked Strong over Tonalist and Kid Cruz.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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