Tabbing an up-and-comer in the Haskell
The Triple Crown consumes the three-year-old division during the first half of the season but once it concludes, it’s smart to keep a lookout for late-developing types. Two of the last three champions, Arrogate and West Coast, bypassed the Triple Crown altogether. When it comes to winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall, three-year-olds who either didn’t compete or ran poorly in Triple Crown races are responsible for six of the last eight wins. On paper, this year’s Triple Crown participants seem especially vulnerable to a late-blooming type. Four horses either won or finished first in the three races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes) and none earned a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating. Divisional honors are up for grabs and Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) may provide valuable insight. A “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 1 1/8-mile Haskell features a lightly-raced sophomore exiting his first graded stakes victory. He registered a field-best 105 BRIS Speed rating and won’t be favored Saturday in the third start off the layoff. You can count me enthusiastically in for King for a Day. A pressing/stalking runner, King for a Day was forced to chase the pace in the June 16 Pegasus (G3) at Monmouth Park in order to keep Maximum Security honest. Those weren’t ideal tactics for the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Uncle Mo but he couldn’t afford to allow the 1-9 favorite to run loose on the lead. Exiting strong performances in the Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby, Maximum Security had an enormous seasoning advantage over King for a Day and it appeared his class would show in the stretch when forging ahead to about a one-length advantage between calls in the latter stages. King for a Day broke his maiden when stretching out in distance for his second start last October and ran a good race from an outside post to just miss in the November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). He missed the next six months, easily handling overmatched foes when returning in the Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard, and the bay colt took a significant step forward in the Pegasus. Just when all hope looked lost in deep stretch, King for a Day found another gear and stormed past Maximum Security to win going away by a length. That was a dimension he lacked previously and is the sign of a good horse, in this case one with plenty of upside still remaining. King for a Day will be able to save ground while stalking just behind the leaders from his rail post -- John Velazquez won’t get caught dueling with hopeless longshots to his outside – and can confirm himself as a rising star in the three-year-old division with a Haskell victory.