Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who will kick off the second half of his season in the $1 million Haskell Invitational Presented by Vonage on Sunday Aug. 3, and Dogwood Stable’s Atoned and Alien Farm’s Nistle’s Crunch all turned in fast breezes Saturday morning.
The Rick Dutrow Jr.-trained colt has not started since June 7, when he was pulled up in the Belmont Stakes for his first loss in six career starts. He has been working steadily at Aqueduct since the beginning of July for his comeback race in the Grade 1 Haskell. Kent Desormeaux will ride.
Atoned, trained by Todd Pletcher, drilled a half-mile in :50 flat over the fast Monmouth strip, with blinkers on for the first time. Madeline Sciametta, wife of Pletcher assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta Jr., was aboard.
Clockers noted the Repent colt worked strongly, getting the first quarter in :26 2/5, and the second quarter in :23 3/5. Atoned galloped out five furlongs in a sharp 1:01 3/5, and went six furlongs eased up in 1:16.
“I don’t know how much the blinkers helped,” Sciametta said. “He always works good. Todd will decide whether he wears them in the Haskell.”
Pletcher, who will be trying for an unprecedented third straight Haskell victory with Atoned, said he was going to experiment with blinkers in a workout before deciding on a change of equipment for the race.
Atoned has had a case of “seconditis” all through his career (he has two wins and seven seconds in 12 lifetime starts), and has been runner-up in both his Monmouth starts this year, finishing behind Cool Coal Man in the Spend a Buck Stakes and Truth Rules in the Long Branch Stakes.
Nistle’s Crunch, a New Jersey-bred son of Van Nistelrooy trained by Ken McPeek, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 over the fast main track at Churchill Downs. The drill was the second-best of 28 at the distance Saturday morning.
The colt was bred by his owners * Michael Harrison and Dr. Alan Furst * who race as the Alien Farm.
No rider has been named yet for Nistle’s Crunch, who will be making his first start on the dirt since the March 29 Florida Derby, where he was seventh behind Big Brown. He has a win, a second and a third in three turf starts since then.
Nistle’s Crunch is expected to arrive at Monmouth on Tuesday after a van ride from Kentucky.
Bea Oxenberg’s Hey Byrn, trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., is scheduled to breeze at Monmouth on Sunday morning for the Haskell. The colt by Put It Back, who finished a troubled fourth in the Long Branch, will have a change of rider next Sunday when Edgar Prado takes the mount. Prado has won both times he rode Hey Byrn, scoring in two allowance events at Gulfstream Park.