American Pharoah appears invincible, multi-race wagers the focus on Haskell Day

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 2nd, 2015

Sunday’s $1.75 million Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park is tailor-made for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

The spectacular Pioneerof the Nile colt, unbeaten from seven stakes starts since his career debut, appears to be training forwardly for his re-appearance, recording three works in a 10-day period at Del Mar, including a pair of six-furlong bullets, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert owns the 1 1/8-mile race at the Jersey Shore, winning seven runnings of the Haskell.

A convincing wire-to-wire winner of the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), American Pharoah will break from post 4 and there is speed to his inside in the starting gate, with Upstart (post 1) and Competitive Edge (post 2) registering triple-digit BRIS E1 Pace ratings in previous starts.

He’s capable of seizing the lead from the start but early positioning is not an issue for the tractable American Pharoah, who can bide his time if necessary before offering his best turn of foot.

I’m expecting Upstart to run well – the Flatter colt’s BRIS Speed numbers tower over the rest of the challengers. He should relish the cutback in trip after flopping in the Kentucky Derby and shows a sharp half-mile bullet drill at Saratoga in preparation, easily the fastest of 109 workers at the distance last Tuesday. If he breaks running, Upstart has an excellent chance to hold second in my estimation.

However, Upstart will offer no value for the vertical exotics as the 6-1 second choice on the morning line.

The best way to play American Pharoah may be multi-race wagers. The Haskell (Race 12) is part of a $400,000 guaranteed Pick 4 that kicks off in Race 9 and the $100,000 guaranteed Pick 5 begins a race later.

Here are some thoughts on the supporting races:

Race 9: Tough to recommend a price here, with Testa Rossi (5-2) and I’m Already Sexy (2-1) looking very formidable among nine turf distaffers.

Race 10: Protonico’s (2-1) last two performances are good enough to win, netting a 107 BRIS Speed rating for victories in the Ben Ali (G3) and Alysheba (G2), but he missed a planned start and significant training time after the latter due a suspected virus that spread through Todd Pletcher’s barn. We witnessed the highly-regarded Race Day come back flat as the heavy favorite under similar circumstances recently and Protonico showed little returning from a layoff earlier this year.

I like Pants on Fire, a Monmouth specialist who could be a little overlooked as the 5-1 fourth choice on the morning line. The stalker opened the year with a strong showing in the Shackleton at Gulfstream, registering a 105 BRIS Speed for the win, and experienced a rough trip finishing a solid third to Private Zone in the Churchill Downs (G2) two back. Pants on Fire got caught chasing a hot pace in a deep Met Mile (G1) last time and has been freshened 57 days off the seventh. He can rebound today.

Race 11: Only seven were entered for turf and it’s not a strong field. Heart to Heart (2-1) and Kharafa (5-2) are dangerous with their best, but Cage Fighter (6-1) has really come on at age 5, recording three commendable efforts, and rates top billing from a favorable inside post. Loved his runner-up in the Dixie (G2) two back and Cage Fighter ran well when trying the local turf in the 1 1/8-mile Monmouth Cup (G2) last time. The cutback to 1 1/16 miles (7-4-3-0) benefits the reformed claimer.

Race 13: Little separates the top contenders. The entry-level turf allowance is stocked with maiden winners but Quiet Kitten (8-1) owns four victories, including a nice tally over the Monmouth Park turf two back in which the stalker received a prime set-up with a hot pace. She was hurt by slow fractions last time but today’s race features plenty of speed and should play to the strengths of the improving 3yo filly.

Race 14: New Jersey-bred females square off in the entry-level allowance at six furlongs. Let’s Parlay (5-2) looks capable as the likely favorite but trainer Greg Sacco, who wins at a 15% rate overall, connects at only at 8% clip the second start back from the layoff, one of his worst categories. Cynthia’s Fury (12-1) lost all chance at the break last time but opened the 2015 season with a couple of efforts at Monmouth that fit well at this level. I’ll use her and the Teresa Pompay-trained entry of Don’s Escapade and Jackie’s Disco (8-1) on my tickets.