Haskell Invitationals have included a Triple Crown race winner three times since 2008, but injuries have taken their toll this year.
First, Kentucky Derby-Preakness victor I’ll Have Another developed swelling in his left front tendon, was scratched from the Belmont and then retired because of early tendinitis.
Then Union Rags won the Belmont, but following a July 6 workout was diagnosed with an injury to a high suspensory ligament in his left foreleg and won’t race again until 2013.
In addition, another shoe dropped on the $1 million race Sunday when Bob Baffert said Derby-Preakness runner-up Bodemeister will miss the July 29 race due to an elevated temperature that is being treated with antibiotics.
“He had a temperature, and we had to start treating him,” Baffert told the Daily Racing Form. “It will set me back a couple of weeks.”
Baffert could switch plans with Belmont runner-up Paynter and point him toward the Haskell instead of the $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 28. Justin Zayat, son of Ahmed Zayat who owns Paynter and Bodemeister, announced Paynter is now “probable” for the Haskell.
Wood Memorial winner Gemologist was being pointed to the Jim Dandy, but could be re-routed to the Haskell, trainer Todd Pletcher said. Since WinStar bought an interest in Bodemeister following the Triple Crown series, Gemologist was being pointed to the Jim Dandy so the two colts wouldn’t face each other.
“This,” Pletcher said of Bodemeister’s condition, “changes that” and he’d talk things over with WinStar president Elliott Walden.
Alpha, beaten a neck by Gemologist in the Wood, is training toward the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, a surface over which he won his career debut last summer.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Bodemeister’s defection could make the Haskell a possibility for Alpha or Le Bernardin, winner of the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth. Prior to Bodemeister’s illness, Le Bernardin was being pointed to the West Virginia Derby, where he would face Iowa Derby winner Hansen.
Last year’s Haskell champ, Coil, didn’t run in any Triple Crown races because of a tiny bone chip. But the Baffert trainee defeated Preakness winner Shackleford by a neck, with Belmont victor Ruler On Ice another 2 ¼ lengths back after 1 1/8 miles.
In ’08, Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown bounced back from his Belmont defeat to triumph by 1 ¾ lengths. Since Belmont champ Touch Gold captured the ’97 Haskell, nine of the past 15 winners raced in at least one of the three Triple Crown contests.
The likely favorite now in the 68th renewal will be Dullahan, third in the Derby who skipped the Preakness and finished seventh in the Belmont.
In ’06, Bluegrass Cat visited the Monmouth winner’s circle after finishing second in the Derby and Belmont.
Baffert, has won a record five Haskells since ’01 when Preakness-Belmont winner Point Given triumphed. In addition to Coil, he saddled Preakness champ Lookin at Lucky in ’10, Roman Ruler in ’05 and Derby-Preakness victor War Emblem in ’02.