by Jon White
July 7, 2021
In a horseracingnation.com story written by Carolyn Greer, nine currently are listed as either probable or possible for Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Stakes. The $1 million event will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on July 17.
Missing from the list of candidates is Medina Spirit, who finished first in the Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1 before he tested positive twice for the banned therapeutic medication betamethasone.
Medina Spirit worked three furlongs in :37.60 at Santa Anita on June 14. That’s been his lone recorded workout since the Florida-bred Protonico colt finished third as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15.
According to an Asbury Park Press report that was confirmed to horseracingnation.com by Monmouth Park racing secretary John Helms, Medina Spirit will not be running in the Haskell.
Listed as probable by horseracingnation.com are Grade I Belmont Stakes runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun and up-and-comer Following Sea. The six currently on the “possible” list, in alphabetic order, are Antigravity, Basso, Midnight Bourbon, Pickin’ Time, Rombauer and Weyburn.
Below are my current Haskell odds for the nine listed as probable or possible:
9-5 Hot Rod Charlie
5-1 Following Sea
6-1 Midnight Bourbon
20-1 Pickin’ Time
I expect Hot Rod Charlie to be the Haskell favorite after he ran such a terrific race in defeat when he finished second in the Belmont.
In the Belmont, Hot Rod Charlie dashed immediately to the front and stepped the opening quarter-mile in :22.78 or :22 3/5 in fifths.
That was the fastest opening quarter in the history of the Belmont when contested at 1 1/2 miles. The Belmont was first run in 1867.
Prior to Hot Rod Charlie, the fastest initial quarter in the Belmont had occurred all the way back in 1945. That’s when The Doge sped the initial quarter in :22 4/5. After setting such a torrid pace in a 1 1/2-mile race on what was then a deep track, The Doge faltered and finished seventh in the field of eight. Pavot won by five lengths. The Doge lost by a little more than 24 lengths.
The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles a total of 95 times. Hot Rod Charlie covered the opening half-mile in :46.49 or :46 2/5 in fifths. The only horse to ever record a faster time for the first half-mile in a 1 1/2-mile Belmont was Secretariat, who was clocked in :46 1/5.
Below are the horses responsible for the only :46 and change fractional times in the history of the Belmont at 1 1/2 miles:
Year Time Horse, Finished (Winner if Different)
1973 :46 1/5 Secretariat, finished 1st
2021 :46 2/5 Hot Rod Charlie, finished 2nd (Essential Quality)
2013 :46 3/5 Frac Daddy, finished last in field of 14 (Palace Malice)
1991 :46 3/5 Corporate Report, finished 4th (Hansel)
1966 :46 3/5 Highest Honors, finished last in field of 13 (Amberoid)
1959 :46 3/5 Manassa Mauler, finished 4th (Sword Dancer)
1996 :46 4/5 Appealing Skier, finished 12th (Editor’s Note)
1957 :46 4/5 Bold Ruler, finished 3rd (Gallant Man)
The above chart points out just how marvelously Hot Rod Charlie ran in defeat. Despite recording the second-fastest half-mile time in the history of the race when contested at 1 1/2 miles, he held on well enough to finish second, leaving everyone other than Essential Quality way behind.
Preakness winner Rombauer wound up a distant third in the Belmont. Hot Rod Charlie finished 11 1/4 lengths in front of Rombauer.
The following splits all belonged to Secretariat when he won the Belmont by 31 lengths to end a 25-year Triple Crown drought:
:23 3/5, :22 3/5, :23 3/5, :24 2/5, :24 4/5, 25 flat
These were the splits in this year’s Belmont:
:22 3/5, :23 3/5, :25 2/5, :25 1/5, :24 4/5, :24 3/5
Essential Quality, only a head off the leading Hot Rod Charlie at the quarter pole, is the one who ran the final quarter in :24 3/5. All the other splits belonged to Hot Rod Charlie.
Hot Rod Charlie lost by 1 1/4 lengths. Adding one-fifth of a second because he lost by that much means that even though Hot Rod Charlie posted the fastest opening quarter fraction in the history of the Belmont when contested at 1 1/2 miles, he still managed to run the final quarter in :24 4/5, a fifth of a second faster than Secretariat in his Belmont.
In his most recent start prior to the Kentucky Derby, Hot Rod Charlie won Fair Grounds’ Grade II Louisiana Derby by two lengths at 1 3/16 miles on March 20. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the Kentucky-bred Oxbow colt won two of nine career starts.
Mandaloun finished sixth as the 13-10 favorite in the Louisiana Derby. He then rebounded in the Kentucky Derby to finish second, only a half-length behind Medina Spirit.
Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun will go into the Haskell off a neck victory in Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes on June 13. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt has won four of seven lifetime starts.
Rombauer, owned by John and Diane Fradkin and trained by Michael McCarthy, won the Preakness by 3 1/2 lengths in an 11-1 upset. The Kentucky-bred Twirling Candy colt then finished third in the Belmont, 11 1/4 lengths behind runner-up Hot Rod Charlie.
John Fradkin recently told horseracingnation.com that Rombauer was 50-50 for the Haskell. If Rombauer does not go, my current Haskell odds for the eight others listed as probable or possible are below:
8-5 Hot Rod Charlie
7-2 Following Sea
5-1 Midnight Bourbon
20-1 Pickin’ Time
HOW GOOD IS FOLLOWING SEA?
I am especially looking forward to the Haskell because of Following Sea. I think there is a possibility that he is a very special colt.
Following Sea did not race last year. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert unveiled him in a very tough six-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita this year on March 6.
How highly regarded was he going into that race? He was hammered down to 9-10 favoritism in a field of 12.
Following Sea did not live up to the hype. He finished second, 2 1/2 lengths behind 8-1 Defunded, also trained by Baffert. Not only did Following Sea lose at first asking, he was disqualified and placed third for causing interference.
Defunded would go on to finish fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, fourth in the Grade I Pat Day Mile, second in the Grade III Affirmed Stakes and second in last Sunday’s Grade III Los Alamitos Derby for Baffert.
Beyer Speed Figures tell the tale in terms of how much better Following Sea is than he showed in his first race.
Following Sea was credited with a modest 77 Beyer in his March 6 loss. Next time out, he won a six-furlong maiden race geared down by 5 3/4 lengths at Oaklawn Park on April 10. He took a giant leap in the Beyer Speed Figure department by registering a 97 in his maiden victory.
After Following Sea earned his maiden diploma, new Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher has taken over the training duties. For Pletcher, Following Sea won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race on a wet track rated good June 3 at Belmont Park. Following Sea ran the opening quarter in :22.03, then zipped the half in :44.79 and six furlongs in 1:08.82 before completing his 6 1/2-furlong journey in 1:15.28.
Following Sea was credited with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his June 3 victory. Just as impressive as the big Beyer was the consummate ease with which the figure was accomplished.
I recently asked a sharp East Coast observer for his opinion of Following Sea. This observer is someone who has achieved considerable success in racing in his line of work. I am not identifying him because he spoke to me off the record.
“The sky is the limit” for Following Sea, he said. “He’s about as exciting a horse as I’ve seen in quite a long time.”
It was a day that I will never forget for two reasons. The date was Nov. 2, 1991. I was at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup.
One reason I will never forget that day is because it was so cold. It was, without a doubt, a bone-chilling afternoon.
The other reason was Arazi’s scintillating victory in the BC Juvenile. To be at Churchill Downs that day to witness that performance certainly is a special racing memory.
I could not help thinking back to Arazi’s BC Juvenile when I recently read that he had died on July 1 in Australia.
“It is with immense sadness that Stockwell Thoroughbreds announces the passing of one of the racing world’s most revered champions, Arazi, at the grand old age of 32,” the Paulick Report posted last Friday in an edited press release. “The little chestnut with the crooked blaze that made him almost instantly recognizable, captured the minds of racing people around the globe, when in 1991 he produced one of the most memorable performances seen on a racetrack in coming from last to take the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by an easing [up] five lengths.”
Included in the Paulick Report’s edited press release was a comment from Stockwell’s Mike Becker.
“It has been an honor never lost on us to have been guardians to such a beloved horse,” Becker said. “He had major bowel surgery as a 4-year-old and has lived with a major heart murmur for the past 16 years, but in the end it was his body that gave out, not his big heart. He will be very missed around here.”
Arazi finished second in France when debuting at 2, then reeled off six straight wins in that country before running on dirt for the first time in the BC Juvenile.
On the backstretch in the BC Juvenile, while the undefeated Bertrando was “coasting along on an uncontested lead,” as noted by Tom Durkin during his call of the race, Arazi and jockey Patrick Valenzuela were a dozen lengths off the pace in the field of 14.
“When we turned into the backstretch, he was in front of one horse,” Valenzuela said of Arazi’s BC Juvenile in the book “Breeders’ Cup,” written by Jay Privman. “I wanted to move up a little. I smooched to him, and he took off. Whenever he saw an open spot, he went right through it. It was like playing a video game in an arcade.”
“Arazi,” Privman wrote, “grabbed a hold of the bit and was flying, careening through traffic like a motorist trying to evade the highway patrol. By the time the field reached the middle of the far turn, Arazi had gone from 13th to second, with only Bertando, the early leader, still in front of Arazi.”
And then, on the far turn, in one of the most unforgettable moments in Breeders’ Cup history, Arazi zoomed past Bertrando.
“It is still Bertrando, out there unchallenged, he leads by two,” said Durkin as the field made its way around the far turn. “Longshot Agincourt still chasing second. Pine Bluff is only three lengths from the lead. Arazi hits his best stride! And there goes the European star Arazi, and he is coming with a menacing rush to Bertrando. And now the stage is set as they move toward the top of stretch. AND ARAZI RUNS RIGHT BY HIM! Arazi, with a dramatic move as the field turns for home, he’s wide into the stretch. Bertrando stunned at the inside with the move here of Arazi.”
Years later, I asked Alex Solis, who rode Bertrando, what he remembered about that race. Solis said that while in front turning for home, he thought there was no way he was going to get beat because Bertrando was running so strongly.
Bertrando “was full of run turning for home,” Solis said, “and I hadn’t even asked him to run yet. So I thought for sure we were going to win. But then Arazi went by us so fast that he was already like three lengths in front of us by the time I realized what had happened.”
After Arazi took the lead, he quickly opened a commanding advantage. Arazi passed the eighth pole with a five-length lead. With a sixteenth to go, he was at least seven lengths in front before Valenzuela let the youngster coast home to win by five.
“And they are coming down to the finish here. Here is indeed a superstar!” said Durkin. “Arazi, absolutely brilliant. He was taken under a hard hold, to win it here by five, and he could have won by 10 perhaps.”
Arazi underwent knee surgery after the BC Juvenile. In his first race at 3, he won a race at about one mile on soft turf in France by five lengths on April 7. Arazi then returned to Churchill Downs for the May 2 Kentucky Derby.
“No horse since the colorful, stretch-running Silky Sullivan in 1959 -- not even the great Secretariat in 1973 -- caused as much excitement on his arrival in Derbytown as Arazi,” Joe Hirsch wrote in the American Racing Manual. “Television teams from stations throughout the Midwest were present at Standiford Field in record numbers for the appearance on a Sunday afternoon of the wonder horse from France.”
I was not at Churchill Downs to see the Run for the Roses. I should have watched the race in the press box at Hollywood Park. At that time, I was a Daily Racing Form chart-caller. But instead of being at Hollywood Park, I watched the 1991 Kentucky Derby at home. Why? There was no racing at Hollywood Park that day due to the ongoing Rodney King riots that tore Los Angeles apart and had parts of the city going up in flames.
Arazi was sent away as the 9-10 Kentucky Derby favorite. He raced next-to-last early in the field of 18 through the early stages. After being as far back as 12 lengths, he took off approaching the far turn. Arazi rocketed past rivals with eye-catching speed to reach third approaching the top of the stretch, just 1 1/2 lengths off the lead. It looked like he was on his way to another victory.
But Arazi weakened in the stretch and ended up eighth. While he had made an electrifying move on the far turn, just as he had done in the 1 1/16-mile BC Juvenile, he just could not sustain his rally in the stretch this time in a 1 1/4-mile race.
Lil E. Tee, 16-1 in the wagering, won by one length. Casual Lies ran second, while Dance Floor finished third.
As a 3-year-old, Arazi won two of six starts. After the Kentucky Derby, he returned to Europe and finished fifth as the 11-10 favorite in the Group I St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 16.
Arazi next appeared under silks in a Group III affair at about 1 1/4 miles in France on Sept. 20. He finished third. Arcangues won that race and went on to capture the BC Classic the following year in a 133-1 shocker at Santa Anita.
After Arazi’s Sept. 20 defeat, he won a Group II race by four lengths at about one mile in France on Oct. 4. Arazi subsequently was sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the BC Mile at Gulfstream Park on Oct. 31. But he ended up 11th in that Breeders’ Cup event, which was won by the stellar miler Lure. Arazi then was retired to stud.
Arazi was bred in Kentucky by Ralph Wilson, owner of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Allen Paulson purchased the Blushing Groom colt as a weanling for $350,000 at public auction. Paulson, chairman of Gulfstream Aerospace and a pilot, named Arazi for an aeronautical navigational checkpoint in Arizona.
Prior to the 1991 Breeders’ Cup, Paulson sold a 50% interest in Arazi to Sheikh Mohammed for $9 million.
During his racing career, Arazi won nine of 14 lifetime starts and earned $1,212,351. In addition to being a champion in Europe, he was voted a 1991 Eclipse Award as America’s champion 2-year-old male.
Arazi embarked on his stud career in 1993 at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Stud in England. Arazi later was moved to Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. In 1997, he was sent to Japan. In 2003, Arazi spent time at stud in Switzerland. After that, he spent the remainder of his life in Australia. Pensioned from stud duty at the end of the 2011 breeding season due to declining fertility, Arazi lived a life of leisure thereafter.
As a sire, Arazi’s top earner was Congaree, who banked $3,267,490 while winning the Grade I Met Mile twice and the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup. Arazi’s daughters produced a Group I Dubai World Cup winner (Electrocutionist) and Group I Melbourne Cup winner (Americain).
A NEW NO. 1 IN NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
Mystic Guide had ranked No. 1 in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll for 14 consecutive weeks following his 3 3/4-length win in the Group I, $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 27.
But there is a new No. 1 this week after Mystic Guide finished second on a sloppy track in the Grade II Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park last Saturday. Mystic Guide lost that race by a neck to 11-1 Max Player.
Now at the top of the NTRA rankings is Letruska. She has put together a three-race winning streak consisting of the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap, Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes and Grade II Fleur de Lis Stakes. Fausto Gutierrez trains the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred Super Saver mare.
Maxfield, who recently won the Grade II Stephen Foster Stakes, is No. 2 this week after being No. 3 last week. He also has won this year’s Grade III Mineshaft Stakes and Grade II Alysheba Stakes for trainer Brendan Walsh.
Mystic Guide, trained by Michael Stidham, slides down a couple of notches to No. 3 this week.
Maxfield and Mystic Guide both are Godolphin homebreds, as is 3-year-old star Essential Quality, who is No. 6 in this week’s NTRA rankings.
Below is the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 302 Letruska (11)
2. 268 Maxfield (6)
3. 260 Mystic Guide (9)
4. 224 Domestic Spending (7)
5. 222 Silver State (1)
6. 197 Essential Quality (2)
7. 129 Knicks Go
8. 83 Gamine
9. 69 Max Player
10. 58 Monomoy Girl