No whips or Lasix allowed, but a million dollars in payouts and trip to the 2021 Breeders' Cup Classic for your troubles in the Haskell Stakes. As horseplayers know, New Jersey outlawed the use of riding crops unless there is an emergency and many tracks have banned race day Lasix for stakes races.
As if handicapping wasn't difficult enough.
Normally, Horse Racing Radar compiles the profile of a winner for major races of consequence, like the Haskell. However, the no crop rule throws history into the wastepaper basket. Crumple it up, head fake, Kobe, swish.
Instead, we reviewed all Monmouth races on 1 1/16 miles during the current meet to identify any trends. (They don't run enough to consider the Haskell's 1 1/8 miles). In our view, understanding race shapes without any urging from riders could offer insights on how the Haskell winner might find his way to the winners' circle.
We found a fairly major bias, 16 of the 26 winners at races at 1 1/16 miles on the main course ran first or second at the quarter-mile marker. Early speed plays provided there isn't an overabundance of fleet of foot horses, which might be the case this year.
FOLLOWING SEA (PP: 1 ML 3-1), HOT ROD CHARLIE (PP: 4 ML 6/5) and MIDNIGHT BOURBON (PP: 6 ML 9/2) all run their best with 1s across their past performance lines. They are also three of the four favorites with stalker MANDALOUN (PP: 3 ML 2-1).
None of the trifecta of frontrunners has tried their luck at Monmouth under the new whip rules and none have any listed works at the track. One, maybe two or all three might not get off to their typical quick start.
According to our pace analysis, FOLLOWING SEA and HOT ROD CHARLIE should come out of the first and run one-two at the quarter-mile marker. That should give both a strong chance to win. FOLLOWING SEA is stretching out for the first time; so, the extra distance is a question mark. HOT ROD CHARLIE has answered that call.
MANDALOUN, PICKIN' TIME (PP: 5 ML 20-1), BASSO (PP: 7 ML 30-1) and MIDNIGHT BURBOUN should bunch up behind the pace with ANTIGRAVITY (PP: 2 ML 30-1) possibly 3 maybe 4 lengths behind the leader.
Although most of the 1 1/16 miles winners were either pilot or co-pilot after the first 2 furlongs, the key fraction to watch is the half-mile call. If the frontrunners come in under 47, it opens the door wide for stalkers/closers. Only three of the 16 early speed types managed to put a sub 47 on the clock and make it to the finish line first. In fact, most were closer to 48 seconds. If HOT ROD CHARLIE and FOLLOWING SEA, provided he can handle 1 1/8 miles, can clock in above 48 seconds, it's unlikely they will get caught.
Horseplayers can play it two ways, speed or stalker. If speed holds, HOT ROD CHALIE is the most likely winner. If the early going is too quick, then MANDALOUN is the obvious choice. However, longshot ANTIGRAVITY has enough late kick to make things uncomfortable for tiring legs. The 30-1 shot probably won't win, but he could fatten exotic tickets if the fractions are fast, by no whip standards.