The Haskell is a cool million-dollar Grade 1 that drew a sharp field of eight three-year olds. It is disrespectful to call it a prep for The Travers but it has somewhat evolved into that while still maintaining a fair share of prestige. This year we have the Kentucky Derby winner and some other fine three-year olds lining up to go a mile and an eighth and tell us who is emerging as the leader of the division heading into the second half of the year.

Let’s run down the field and see what shakes out.

Geaux Rocket Ride breaks from the rail with Mike Smith. He is an up and comer who had a setback earlier when on the Triple Crown trail. He appears to be back better than ever and heads in here off a nice stalk the pace win in The Affirmed. Richard Mandella doesn’t ship often so you must pay attention. He has speed from the rail at Monmouth. Enough said.

Awesome Strong appears to be in deeper waters than he can handle. He comes out of a sprint and has some natural speed to add to what could turn out to be a lively pace.

Salute the Stars in interesting. He looked decent at two on the grass at Ellis Park. At three he moved to Brad Cox and wound up on the dirt when a turf race came off the grass. He won that and then took the prep for this race, The Pegasus stalking the pace and getting the jump on the closers. His Pegasus was a fast race, fast enough to put him in this and his style appears perfectly suited to the shape of the race on paper.

Mage also figures to get a nice trip here. The Derby winner is pointing to The Travers but I don’t think for a second they would not love The Haskell on his resume. I think he comes back with a strong effort.

Tapit Trice will likely be the deep closer in here and may be a bit forgotten off a dull Belmont. The Belmont was a “wide” race where nobody including was really doing much running at the end. I don’t think any of those horses wanted a mile and a quarter and with the pace scenario Tapit Trice can bounce back to one of his top efforts.

Howgreatisnate wasn’t that far behind Salute the Stars but doesn’t have near the upside he does. He does add to the pace though.

Extra Anejo is another with speed who will try and up his game and show he belongs with this kind. His first win stamped him as one to watch but I don’t think he really went on with it as some expected him to. Saturday will tell us a lot about him.

Arabian Knight is obviously one of the more talented ones in here and even off the lay-off since a win in The Southwest back in January is a threat. Bob Baffert knows how to win The Haskell and doesn’t send horses here without aa chance. He was done no favors by the pace scenario or the draw and will have to be at his best off the bench to win.

This turned out to be one tough race to handicap. Mage, Tapit Trice, Salute the Stars and Arabian Knight can all win in my opinion, and I think it will come down to the rides and trips as it often does. Geaux Rocket Ride would be no shock either.

I really like the trip I see for Salute the Stars. The win over the track can’t hurt and his last race was fast enough to contend if he can repeat it. He should get the jump on Mage and Tapit Trice and if Arabian Knight is softened up maybe he can get the job done.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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