Dogwood Stable’s Atoned, who has developed a case of seconditis since his two victories at Monmouth last year, is likely to get a chance to make amends in a big way in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
“I have to discuss it again with Mr. Campbell (Dogwood president Cot Campbell) before we make a final decision,” the trainer said.
The Haskell is scheduled to be the start of the second season for Big Brown, whose Triple Crown try ended in the Belmont, and at least five 3-year-olds are expected to challenge the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
Pletcher, who would be going for an unprecedented third straight Haskell victory with Atoned, said that he might be making a change of equipment for Atoned’s next start.
“It’s amazing that he’s run as well as he has and finished second as many times as he has,” Pletcher said. “And he’s been second a variety of ways. He’s gone to the front too soon at times, and then been too late other times. He’s shown hints of moving forward in his races, but he’s been kind of a bridesmaid.
“We think he needs a little edge, and maybe blinkers will be that edge. We’re thinking of working him in blinkers to see how he responds.”
Pletcher won the Grade 1 Haskell in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and last year with Any Given Saturday, both of whom carried more impressive credentials into Monmouth’s signature event.
However, Atoned has flashed signs of brilliance, and even more important a love of the Monmouth racing strip, in his 12 lifetime outings.
The son of Repent was second by a head in his career debut here last June, and then broke his maiden at Monmouth last August. He followed that by winning the Continental Mile Stakes, run on the main track last year.
Then came a string of four seconds, all in stakes, that spilled over from his 2-year-old to his 3-year-old year. On the Triple Crown trail, Atoned was second by a neck in the Grade 2 Remsen, and second by a neck in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.
He came off his two worst outings of the year (a fourth in the Illinois Derby and an eighth in the Lexington Stakes, both Grade 2) with a rousing late-running second to Cool Coal Man here in the Spend a Buck Stakes. Last out, he made the lead in midstretch in the Long Branch Stakes, but got nailed on the wire by Truth Rules.
In addition to Big Brown and Atoned, other Haskell probables include Truth Rules, Cool Coal Man, Nistle’s Crunch and Hey Byrn. The Haskell remains a possibility for Tale of Ekati.