Competitive Edge confirmed for Haskell
Competitive Edge romped in last summer's Hopeful (G1) just two days before American Pharoah burst onto the scene in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), but the two have never met on the track -- until now. Initially among the possibles for the August 2 Haskell Invitational (G1), Competitive Edge has been confirmed for Monmouth's $1 million race, where he will test his mettle against the Triple Crown winner. The official word from trainer Todd Pletcher was first reported by Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch on Monday.
This would have appeared a more even-handed clash last season, before American Pharoah proved to be a history maker. Interestingly, both are once-beaten, but while "Pharoah" hasn't lost since his career debut, Competitive Edge comes off his one poor effort. And while Pharoah was sweeping the classics, Competitive Edge has been running on the undercard.
Turning the clock back a year, Competitive Edge looked like a sensational prospect for freshman sire Super Saver. He dominated his Saratoga debut by 10 1/4 lengths and cruised by 5 3/4 lengths in the Hopeful. But he subsequently sustained a fractured left front leg that required surgery.
As Competitive Edge convalesced, American Pharoah garnered headlines. He followed up his 4 3/4-length conquest of the Del Mar Futurity with an even more informative decision in the FrontRunner (G1), showing that he could control his front-running speed, quicken smartly, and cope with two turns on dirt. But he too missed the rest of his two-year-old campaign due to injury, detected after he'd been installed as the morning-line favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Competitive Edge returned to the worktab January 11, almost a month before American Pharoah posted his first work on the comeback trail. Yet unlike Pharoah, who wasted no time in hopping on the Derby trail, Competitive Edge was confined to one-turn races. He picked up where he left off with an 8 1/4-length demolition of the seven-furlong Tamarac at Gulfstream, and likewise exuded class when capturing the Pat Day Mile (G3) (formerly the Derby Trial) in a stakes-record 1:34.18 on Derby Day.
Bringing an unbeaten record into the Woody Stephens (G2) on Belmont Day, the 2-5 favorite was never traveling with his usual verve and trailed home a too-bad-to-be-true last of six. A few in the Pletcher barn were reportedly a bit under the weather with a virus at around that time. Whatever the reason, that was obviously not the real Competitive Edge. He got back to work three weeks later and hasn't missed a beat since, at least judging by his pattern of solid times.
Although Competitive Edge was credited with a five-furlong move Sunday in 1:04.44 at the Spa, clocker Bruno DeJulio reported a much swifter time:
Competitive Edge, who has yet to race beyond a mile, will be making his two-turn debut in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell off a career-worst performance. His high cruising speed assures that he'll be right with Pharoah early, but the acid test is if he can keep up with the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) hero late. Competitive Edge has nothing to lose by trying, since there's no disgrace in defeat here.
And at the very least, it's not a bad prep for the King's Bishop (G1) over seven furlongs on Travers Day at Saratoga. Just ask Hard Spun, who was second in the 2007 Haskell before successfully cutting back in trip for the King's Bishop.
Other probables for the Haskell are Mr. Jordan and Tekton, the top two from the June 21 Pegasus (G3) over this track, and War Story. Stanford has been on the possible list since his win in the more recent prep, the July 11 Long Branch, but Pletcher may not want to run Competitive Edge's stablemate here as well. Keen Ice, Iowa Derby (G3) winner Bent on Bourbon, and Pegasus third Good Pick Nick are also possible.
Photo of Competitive Edge courtesy of Jim Tyrrell/Horsephotos.com.