The recent Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park is more than just another rich NJ horse betting memory.
It’s a link to this year’s high-profile, national 3-year-old thoroughbred racing circuit, in which the latest race crowns a temporary kingpin.
Haskell-winning Cyberknife will strut in the spotlight now. He joins the likes of Epicenter, Rich Strike, Mo Donegal, Early Voting and others who have taken turns seizing the nation’s high-profile stakes races.
So far, nobody can string a couple of big ones together.
Here’s what lies beneath Cyberknife’s razor close triumph over Taiba in the $1 million, 1 1-8 mile Haskell, which had the eyes of the racing world fixed on Oceanport, N.J.
Monmouth Park has a new Gold standard
There have been famous horses like Java Gold, Seeking the Gold and Touch Gold in the horse-racing annals.
Now there’s Al Gold.
He’s the long-time Ocean Township resident who indeed sought and touched gold as the owner of Cyberknife. Gold has been coming to Monmouth Park for 50 years. He’s often grappled with the idea of how to handicap races there. Now he not only picked a winner but entered one.
Gold can bask in the spotlight, bringing a New Jersey connection to a realm reserved for Hall of Fame trainers like Bob Baffert, who nearly captured an unprecedented 10th Haskell with Taiba. Cyberknife nipped Taiba.
Gold watched his horse scuffle early in the year, finishing lengths behind Epicenter in an early-winter stakes race and well behind Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby.
But he woke up in the Matt Winn, outgunning a stubborn Howling Time in a photo finish. He decisively beat Howling Time here.
Cyberknife has won four of his last five and is on an uptick.
He is the epitome of the horse-racing circuit: a little momentum goes a long way.
What this means for the Breeders’ Cup
BetMakers, the fixed odds betting partner of Monmouth Park, announced a $1-million bonus last month for a unique three-race sweep. Connections for any horse who can win the Haskell, the Travers in Saratoga on Aug. 27 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5 earns a $1 million bonus.
Gold indicated he expects Cyberknife to run in the Travers. And the Breeders’ Cup should be a no-brainer. The Haskell triumph was a win-and-you’re-in reward for Gold and Cyberknife. All expenses are paid.
BetMakers unfurled this bonus two years ago. It was collected by Authentic, who captured the Haskell, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
New Jersey racing fans can get a glimpse of the Travers by watching the Jim Dandy this weekend from Saratoga. It’s the official prep race of the Travers. Watch who wins the race. The top performers ;/likely appear in the Travers.
Haskell Invitational recap: Cyberknife triumphed the hard way
All he had to do to win the Haskell was set a track record.
So, he did.
Cyberknife’s final time of 1:46.24 for the distance of 1 1/8 miles established new stakes and track records. Earlier on the card, Highly Motivated had eclipsed the track record for nine furlongs set by Spend a Buck in 1985 when winning the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup.
Cyberknife lowered that mark and beat the stakes record of 1:47 established by Majestic Light in 1976 and later equaled by Bet Twice in 1987.
New Jersey racing fans recall the epic battle between Bet Twice and Alysheba in the Haskell homestretch 25 years later. It was one of the most thrilling moments in New Jersey racing history.
Bet Twice was owned by Bob Levy, the owner of Atlantic City Race Course. That intensified local interest in the horse.
Bet Twice and Alysheba had combined to win all three Triple Crown races, a rare feat witnessed at the Haskell. It’s hard to get every Triple Crown-race winner to come here.
But in 1987, here they were, predictably thundering down the homestretch with the race on the line. Belmont winner Bet Twice held off Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba all the way down the homestretch. Lost Code was third.
Bet Twice had to tie a stakes record in order to win.
And now the mark goes to Cyberknife.
Playing the fixed odds puzzle at Monmouth Park
BetMakers announced Jack Christopher at even money and Taiba a seemingly-generous 5-2 three days before the race. Some New Jersey residents headed to Monmouth Park to weigh in at that fixed-odds price.
Those who could bet right away got a better deal than post-time odds, even though their horse did not win. Taiba at 5-2 was better than his 2-1 post-time odds. That’s a big factor to a big bettor.
Jack Christopher went off at a ridiculous 7-10 at post time, making his even-money odds from Wednesday resemble a gift.
Fixed odds will present its best benefits in bigger fields for most races.
Brad Cox makes the right Haskell call
Cox won the Haskell with Cyberknife. Last week, he re-routed another Haskell hopeful and feels good about it now.
One of Monmouth’s best horses, Home Brew, was not entered in the Haskell. Home Brew had impressively won the Pegasus and is ridden by Monmouth top jockey Paco Lopez. He certainly would have beaten some of the long shots thrown in late to increase the Haskell field to eight.
But Cox didn’t want a middle-of-the-road finish.
He will instead ship Home Brew to the Mountain State next weekend for the $500,000 West Virginia Derby.
It will be a Cox coup if Home Brew indeed goes on to victory there.
Part of how trainers get high marks is knowing where their horses do, and don’t, have their best chance.