The recent retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify means that several rich prizes for three-year-olds will be up for grabs this summer, including Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park.
The nine-furlong race—a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I)—was originally supposed to mark Justify’s first start since the Belmont Stakes. But now that he’s retired, a few promising colts who tried (unsuccessfully) to take down Justify in the spring will have an opportunity shine in his absence.
First and foremost is #6 Good Magic, who gamely chased home Justify while finishing second in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic is by far the most accomplished horse in the Haskell field—in addition to his Derby effort, he was the champion two-year-old male of 2017 and won the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) earlier this season.
Good Magic was last seen finishing a gallant fourth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), a race in which he pushed Justify hard early on before fading slightly in the homestretch to finish a length behind the future Triple Crown winner in a crowded finish. It wasn’t a bad effort by any means, especially considering that the Preakness was conducted over a sloppy, sealed track that took an incredible amount of rain in the days leading up to the race.
#6 Bravazo, who rallied to finish second in the Preakness, is another logical contender, along with #4 Core Beliefs and #1 Lone Sailor, who were separated by just a nose when finishing 1-2 in the Ohio Derby (gr. III) at Thistledown last month. But the horse that has really caught my attention is #7 Golden Brown, the longest shot on the morning line at odds of 15-1.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m reaching outside the box a bit. Golden Brown has never contested a stakes race on dirt, and indeed, his greatest success has come on grass. But two starts back, he was beaten just a half-length against the talented older runner Irish Strait in the Dan Horn Handicap over the Monmouth turf course, and Golden Brown followed up that effort with an eye-catching triumph against a quality field in the nine-furlong Kent Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware Park, in which he rolled past the leaders with authority in the final furlong to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths.
Even better, Golden Brown has run well on dirt in the past—he broke his maiden sprinting over the main track at Parx Racing, and three starts back he won a six-furlong dirt allowance race here at Monmouth. I don’t know if he is good enough to defeat the likes of Good Magic, but given the potential he’s shown sprinting on dirt and going long on turf, I’m excited to see what he can do when combining those talents and going long on dirt.
So let’s give him a try in the exotics and see if he can’t finish in the top three at a big price: