Wednesday, June 29, 2016 9:45 AM
Brush Off Baffert in the Betfair.com Haskell at Your Own Peril
By Dean Keppler
With star 3-year-olds such as Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Preakness victor Exaggerator, and Steve Asmussen’s rapidly improving Gun Runner kicking around a potential start in this year’s $1 Million dollar Betfair.com Haskell Invitational-- Bob Baffert and his lightly-raced colt American Freedom just might head into the race in an atypical unfamiliar “under the radar” position.
American Freedom (a 2014 $500K Keeneland purchase) is a son of multiple Grade 2 winner Pulpit. He was a sharp ultra-game winner of the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day over a muddy track, and was a late addition to the Grade 3 Iowa Derby to be run this Friday July 1 at Prairie Meadows as part of the track’s Festival of Racing. The Sir Barton has turned out to be a fairly productive key race, which has included a pair of next-out winners in Voluntario and Donegal Moon. The latter colt reversed his running style to score a last-to-first upset victory over the heavily favored and previously undefeated Unified in the Betfair.com Pegasus Stakes on Father’s Day June 19 for trainer Todd Pletcher and veteran jockey Joe Bravo.
If all goes as planned on Friday in the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, you’ll likely see American Freedom use this Grade 3 event as a stepping stone to the Betfair.com Haskell. He’ll likely be wheeled back in less than 4 weeks for the race that his connections have stated publicly that they’ve had marked on the calendar for some time now. In a recent article published last month in the Asbury Park Press, Bob Kulina, president of Darby Development LLC and longtime track fixture and Monmouth Park advocate shared this brief insight into American Freedom’s upcoming campaign. “The morning of the Pat Day Mile, Bob Baffert told me this was his Haskell horse,’’ Kulina said. “He didn’t run that good, but he decided to wheel him back two weeks later, and he looked great.’’
As of this writing, the 63-year-old Hall of Fame trainer will likely be sending over American Freedom. However, whether it’s American Freedom or another 3-year-old that happens to emerge in the coming weeks from the Baffert barn, any entrant from this conditioner deserves immediate respect regardless of his past accomplishments. The prestigious Grade 1 million dollar Betfair.com Haskell has always been a staple stop along the 3-year-old campaign season for this highly-talented and successful conditioner. The 2016 edition is no exception. After all, Baffert holds the record for editions of the Haskell won by a trainer. That magic number stands at eight.
Just a year ago Baffert was more than saturated in the spotlight when his Triple Crown winner American Pharoah came to the surf and sun of Oceanport. The champion colt attracted a record 60,083 racing aficionadas to the Jersey Shore who were more than zealous to see the first Triple Crown Champion since 1978. Pharoah’s huge fan base both on and off-track were not disappointed as the champion 3-year-old cruised to another effortless victory by 2 1/4 lengths over Keen Ice. The champion colt was then retired two races later after his dominating wire-to-wire victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.
Is there a Secret to Baffert’s Betfair.com Haskell Success?
Baffert’s triumphs in the Grade 1 Betfair.com Haskell runs deep and long. He won his first edition of the race back in 2001 with Point Given, followed that victory up in 2002 with War Emblem and then added the 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014--and of course-- 2015 running to his illustrious resume. Here’s a look at his past winners:
2015 American Pharoah (9 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $8,650,300
2014 Bayern (2 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $4,454,930
2012 Paynter (1 Grade 1 Win) Earnings: $1,101,924
2011 Coil (2 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $1,154,360
2010 Lookin at Lucky (5 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $3,307,278
2005 Roman Ruler (1 Grade 1 Winner) Earnings: $1,220,800
2002 War Emblem (3 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $3,491,000
2001 Point Given (6 Grade 1 Wins) Earnings: $3,968,500
Bob Baffert doesn’t travel east to Monmouth Park very often, but when he does bettors are best served to take notice. In the last 5 years he’s only started 7 horses but has 4 wins (57%) with a $3.71 ROI with a median price of $6.20.
As we mentioned last week, it will be the first time New Jersey residents within the boundaries of the Garden State will have the chance to partake in exchange wagering on the 49th edition of the Betfair.com Haskell. As veteran award-winning writer Bob Ehalt penned recently, “Monmouth finds itself at the epicenter of a wagering revolution that has the potential to dramatically alter the way Americans bet on horse racing.” And what better way to exemplify this historical wagering milestone by offering exchange betting on the track’s premier event this upcoming July 31. Hopefully, a whole new era of racing fans and bettors will climb onboard and embrace this new contemporary wagering platform on this special day in New Jersey Thoroughbred racing.
For more information on New Jersey exchange wagering go to: www.betfair.com.
About Dean Keppler
Dean Keppler has been handicapping Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds for over 30 years, and is the former Director of DRF Press for Daily Racing Form. He's authored two handicapping books for DRF titled: “Trainer Angles” and “Betting the Kentucky Derby,” and has published several handicapping articles for Horseplayer Magazine. Keppler is an NHC qualifier, and his work has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Paulick Report, New York Times, The Saratoga Special, and several other prolific publications.