Monday, July 23, 2012
MARIO GUTIERREZ TO RIDE HANDSOME MIKE IN HASKELL
Trainer Doug O’Neill said on Sunday that Handsome Mike is headed to the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational and Mario Gutierrez will ride the colt, who is owned by J. Paul Reddam. Handsome Mike and the jockey will partner for the first time.
O’Neill, Gutierrez, and Reddam are the same connections for the recently retired I’ll Have Another, who won this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Handsome Mike, a son of the hot young sire Scat Daddy, last raced at Turfway Park on March 24, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on Polytrack. On Saturday (July 21) O’Neill worked him six furlongs over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Betfair Park under his regular exercise rider and the colt fired a bullet of 1:11.80 for the fastest move of 11 horses at the same distance.
“It was a great, great work. He’s fantastic,” said O’Neill. “Handsome Mike is a very versatile colt. He’s got speed and he’s also got the ability to track if need be. I expect him to run very well.”
In other Haskell news, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer confirmed that Nonios will also be in the starting gate when the 45th edition of the race is run on Sunday, July 29.
The son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect had been competing in graded stakes at Hollywood and comes into the Haskell with a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap and a solid second in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes in his last two starts. In the Swaps, he earned a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure while losing by less than a length to the Bob Baffert-trained Blueskiesnrainbows. Baffert will send Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter to the Haskell.
Post positions will be drawn on Thursday at noon. While the field is still taking shape, the connections of Kentucky Derby third place finisher Dullahan and Pegasus Stakes winner Le Bernardin have also confirmed their participation. Possible runners include Wood Memorial Stakes winner Gemologist, 2011 Juvenile champion and Iowa Derby victor Hansen, Long Branch winner My Adonis, Matt Winn Stakes runner-up Stealcase, and several other top three-year-olds.
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