Monmouth Park is having a little different $1 million Haskell this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
What hasn’t changed is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is expected to win again.
Baffert’s Authentic drew the No. 2 post position on Wednesday and was made the overwhelming morning line favorite for Saturday’s signature race of the Monmouth Park meet
Seven colts were entered in the 1 1/8-mile event, which this year is no longer the first major race for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown.
Just hours after the draw, Baffert was suspended for 15 days by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for a banned substance in races on May 2.
The commission said in a ruling announced Wednesday the suspension will run from Aug. 1 to 15, roughly two weeks after the Haskell is held.
The suspension is the latest twist in what has been a very different year in sports.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the world’s sports schedule.
In thoroughbred racing, it forced the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to be pushed back to Sept. 5 and Oct. 3, respectively, instead of being normally during in May.
Racing for the most part has been held in empty racetracks. That will be different at Monmouth where New Jersey is allowing the track to have 25 percent capacity, about 15,000 fans. Belmont Park was eerily empty for its signature race.
Authentic, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby, was installed as the 4-5 favorite and will be looking to give Baffert his record-extending ninth Haskell win. Mike Smith is listed to ride the California-based colt,
“I love the track,” Baffert said on a conference call Wednesday. “Speed horses usually do well there. But the reason I have had all that success is that I have brought my best horses there and they are good horses. That’s the secret.”
Baffert last won the Haskell in 2015 with American Pharoah, one of two colts he guided to the Triple Crown. Justify (2018) was the other.
Baffert’s other Haskell winners were in 2014 (Bayern), 2012 (Paynter), 2011 (Coil), 2010 (Lookin at Lucky), 2005 (Roman Ruler), 2002 (War Emblem) and 2001 (Point Given).
Authentic won his first three starts before finishing second to Honor A.P. in the Grade 1 race in California in his last start on June 6.
Dr Post, trained by Todd Pletcher, was made the 5-2 second choice. The colt finished second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont on July 20. The son of Quality Road drew the No. 1 post position and will have Joe Bravo riding for the first time.
Bravo got the mount because regular rider Irad Ortiz could not travel because of recent restrictions established by the New York Racing Association. The NYRA ruled New York-based jockeys who travel out of state cannot compete at Saratoga because of a spike in positive COVID-19 races.
The Haskell will offer points for the Kentucky Derby, with 100 going to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. In addition, The Haskell has been designated as “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The owners of Tiz the Law have said they plan to run this year’s winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8. It would be his final prep for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Also entered in the Haskell in post position order with colt, jockey and odds were:
Jesus’ Team, Nik Juarez, 15-1; Ancient Warrior, Trevor McCarthy, 20-1; Fame to Famous, Jose C. Ferrer, 30-1; Lebda, Alex Cintron, 20-1 and Ny Traffic, Paco Lopez, 7-2.