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Baffert’s Haskell Dominance: Is Eight Enough?

by Jeremy Plonk

July 15, 2020

Trainer Bob Baffert boasts a record 8 victories in Monmouth Park’s signature race, the Haskell Stakes, which will be renewed Saturday on the Jersey Shore. His bid for a ninth score comes with the capable San Felipe winner and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic, expected to be a solid favorite when entries are drawn Wednesday.

Let’s take a look at Baffert’s past successes in this race and try to put a historical measure on them, ranking his Haskell Great Hits from 8 to 1.

#8 Roman Ruler (2005) | Video
Distance questions abounded for this brilliant early 2-year-old prodigy. He won 3 of his first 4, including the Best Pal sprinting and the Norfolk routing. But a troubled-trip fifth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, subsequent surgery for his ridgling condition, and an eighth-place return in the San Felipe derailed him from the Triple Crown trail. Baffert changed the gameplan, got him back on track for the Dwyer in early summer and beat a historically very weak edition of the Haskell as the 6-5 chalk (his final victory). Roman Ruler won 5 of 10 lifetime for $1.2 million.

#7 Paynter (2012) | Video 
The inspirational colt was stricken with colitis after his Haskell victory in 2012 and his nearly year-long comeback ordeal was the story of his career. But he had a fleeting career on the track that caught notice with a February debut at 3 that saw him develop into the Belmont Stakes runner-up by June. The Haskell was his only major career victory, an even-money score against a weak group by this race’s lofty standards. At 4, he’d return to finish second in the San Diego Handicap and Awesome Again Stakes. Paynter won 4 of 11 overall for $1.1 million.

#6 Coil (2011) | Video
This late-arriving 3-year-old did not return for his sophomore season until Kentucky Oaks Day, winning a Hollywood Park allowance that set him up for the Affirmed and Swaps in early summer. Coil was his best in the Haskell, rallying from last of 8 to edge Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont upsetter Ruler On Ice. He bombed in the Travers, but would go on to win the Santa Anita Sprint Championship at age 4 and the San Pasqual at age 5 in his final start. He wound up 7-for-14 and earned $1.1 million.

#5 War Emblem (2002) | Video
You know you have a stable for the ages when your fifth-best Haskell winner won two-thirds of the Triple Crown. War Emblem was a dynamo when he got things his own way on the front. His 13: 7-0-0 career record was indicative of his all-or-nothing style, which earned just under $3.5 million. The Haskell was his final career victory, which followed with poor showings in the Pacific Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He wired just 4 rivals in the Haskell as the 3-10 favorite, the best of which was Maryland local Preakness runner-up Magic Weisner.

#4 Lookin at Lucky (2010) | Video 
The Preakness winner was champion 2-year-old and champion 3-year-old as the best of his generation. Lookin At Lucky cruised to a 4-length Haskell victory in his first start post-Pimlico, dominating the field at 6-5 odds. Among those dispatched at Monmouth were Kentucky Derby 1-2 finishers Super Saver and Ice Box, as well as Preakness runner-up First Dude. Lookin At Lucky would add the Indiana Derby en route to a fourth-place Breeders’ Cup Classic finish in his career finale. Overall, he won 9 of 13 for $3.3 million.

#3 Bayern (2014) | Video
A January debut artist at age 3, he was further behind his divisional stalwarts like California Chrome when the Triple Crown was held. But a victory in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day propelled him to second-half run that included victories in the Haskell, Pennsylvania Derby (over California Chrome) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (over California Chrome, Belmont winner Tonalist and Shared Belief). At Monmouth, he rolled to a 7-1/4 length victory in wire-to-wire fashion as favorite and Kentucky Oaks heroine Untapable didn’t threaten after a troubled start. His 0-for-5 record at age 4 soiled his overall mark to 6-for-15, while Bayern banked more than $4.4 million.

#2 Point Given (2001) | Video
Arguably Bob Baffert’s best 3-year-old to not win the Triple Crown, this Santa Anita Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner rolled through the spring and summer like a Grade 1 terror. He earned champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year honors on the back of 4 consecutive Grade 1 scores that concluded in the Travers. His Haskell victory was closer than expected as the 3-10 favorite, corralling longshot Touch Tone by a half-length in the shadow of the wire. He won 9 of 13 and just under $4 million in a career that earned him a 2010 Hall of Fame induction.

#1 American Pharoah (2015) | Video
Most everything in 2015 belonged to American Pharoah, including the Triple Crown sweep and Breeders’ Cup Classic for year-end measure. His Horse of the Year campaign included a popular Haskell score as the 1-9 favorite over Keen Ice, who would exact some revenge in the Travers next – the only loss of the season for American Pharoah and one that snapped an 8-race winning streak. Expect him to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when eligible next year. American Pharoah won 9 of 11 races and stockpiled $8.6M in earnings.