Good luck trying to upset American Pharoah in the Haskell
The Grade 1, $1.75-million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes features the return of American Pharoah, winner of seven straight races and the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years.
Eight have signed up to run for a record purse for this race, but two of those (Upstart and Competitive Edge) were also entered to run in Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.
Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes winner Upstart and Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes winner Mr. Jordan have potential to run well while the rest appear a cut below in terms of class as they have either not run in a graded stakes to date or not performed well when they have.
American Pharoah will be the prohibitive betting choice, likely on the order of 1-9 odds, meaning for every $9 bet on him to win you will earn $1 profit if he wins, or about 10 percent. During his spring campaign, including wins in the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah did not show any signs of regression, earning Equibase Speed Figures of 107, 111, 111 and 112 in those races.
Rested nearly two months since the Belmont, American Pharoah has put in three workouts in July that suggest he's still in top shape, followed by a more leisurely maintenance workout. With regular rider Victor Espinoza once again in the saddle, American Pharoah appears ready to win his eighth straight race.
If there are upset candidates, they are Mr. Jordan and Upstart, the former a horse I wouldn't hesitate to bet to win as he opens at 15-1 odds.
Mr. Jordan has never been worse than second in six races, once via a disqualification and the other when returning from four months away from the races. Mr. Jordan earned 99, 99 and 111 figures in his last three races, the 111 Pegasus figure suggesting he ran as fast as American Pharoah in the Derby and Preakness.
Mr. Jordan likes to run on or near the lead but doesn't need to lead for his best. This versatility will allow jockey Paco Lopez the ability to react to how the pace scenario develops. Although he won his last two races by a head, Mr. Jordan showed a lot of fight in the late stages to hold off horses trying to go by and that may help him pull off the upset in this year's Haskell.
Upstart is another that has done little wrong in his career. Except when eased in the Derby, Upstart has only been worse than second one time in seven other races. He won the Holy Bull Stakes in January to start off his 3-year-old campaign, with a career-best 111 speed figure, then was disqualified and place second after winning the Fountain of Youth stakes in his next start. Following a career-best 113 figure when second in the Florida Derby came the inexplicably poor Kentucky Derby effort. However, with a best-of-109 half-mile workout coming into the Haskell it appears Upstart can return to top form.
The rest of the Haskell field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Competitive Edge (106), Dontbetwithbruno (97), Keen Ice (104), Nonna's Boy (101) and Top Clearance (103).