What’s at stake in the three-year-old stakes and how to bet the Haskell

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Ed DeRosa

July 29th, 2016

Here are my standings for the three-year-old male division going into this weekend’s blockbuster stakes double of the $600,000 Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and the $1-million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

  1. Nyquist: Beat the rest in the Kentucky Derby
  2. Exaggerator: Beat the Derby winner in the Preakness
  3. Creator: The top three are the two-time Grade 1 winners
  4. Gun Runner: Not a Grade 1 winner but Louisiana Derby form has held well and he’s come back better than the other Grade 1 winners (Outwork and Brody’s Cause)
  5. Destin, Mohaymen, Mo Tom: Stakes winners who could all make things more interesting in the division with a big second half.

Of the above seven horses only Mo Tom is out of action this week as trainer Tom Amoss plans to run the Bennett family’s Ohio Derby winner in the West Virginia Derby as a prep for the Travers.

My first-, second-, and fourth-ranked horses (also the top three in the Kentucky Derby) are in the Haskell while the third- and other fifth-ranked horses are in the Jim Dandy. Creator and Destin were 1-2 in the Belmont Stakes while Mohaymen has been off since finishing fourth behind the Haskell trio in the Derby—a race that has produced five next-out winners (Exaggerator, Gun Runner, Creator, Mo Tom, and Tom’s Ready) as well as the Preakness runner-up (Nyquist), and the second- and third-place finishers in the Belmont (Destin and Lani, respectively).

All that is to say I think the above horses are the best of this group, and other than seeing how Mo Tom does in the West Virginia Derby, we’ll learn a lot more about the Travers from the Saturday and Sunday races than we will anything else (including the Curlin on Friday).

But how do you bet these races? Well, Dave Litfin covers how to bet the Jim Dandy, and while I don’t disagree that Mohaymen is one of the ones, he isn’t the one for me. I prefer Destin, but I won’t let Mohaymen beat me out of the multis and plan to use both.

I agree with James Scully that of all the horses in this race, Creator is the one most likely using it as a prep, and while he’ll be third choice, I don’t think the value will be there to increase the cost of my tickets by 50%.

Like the Jim Dandy, the Haskell has the three horses from the Triple Crown and everyone else, but unlike the Jim Dandy, I won’t hedge, as I am in staunch support of Gun Runner here as the third choice and 3 or 4 times the price as favorite Nyquist.

I think Exaggerator is right there with them, too, but even if rain comes, I have to sell the Preakness winner at the expected price off the uncertainty of where he would run and how he was training coming into that run. Against other horses I wouldn’t worry about it as much, but Nyquist and Gun Runner are too good to let a short horse win this.

So for me it’s a win bet on Gun Runner at 5-to-2 or better.