OCEANPORT, N.J. - A field of seven, topped by Big Brown, is in prospect for Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational Presented by Vonage * Big Brown is expected to breeze Friday at Aqueduct and ship to Monmouth on Saturday * Nistle’s Crunch, the only New Jersey-bred in the field, arrived at Monmouth Wednesday morning after a van ride from Kentucky * Atoned schooled in the gate with blinkers on Wednesday morning * The Haskell draw at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, will be webcast live on the Monmouth web site --- http://www.monmouthpark.com -and can be found in the “live video” section of the Racing menu.
Big Brown was unbeaten in five lifetime starts going into the Belmont Stakes on June 7, but was pulled up and did not finish the mile and a half third leg of the Triple Crown.
The son of Boundary, owned by the partnership of IEAH Stables, Paul Pompa Jr., and minority owners Gary Tolchin and Andrew Cohen, has been working steadily at Aqueduct all through July for his Haskell appearance. Pompa, Tolchin and Cohen are all New Jersey residents.
Kent Desormeaux, who has ridden Big Brown in all his 3-year-old starts, will be back aboard. Desormeaux hit the 5,000 winner mark for his career last Sunday at Saratoga.
ALAAZO - A late addition to the field, the Bill Mott-trained colt will ship down from Saratoga for the Haskell.
Alaazo, a son of A.P. Indy, broke his maiden at Monmouth as a 2-year-old last August, and then was out until February this year when he won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The Zayat Stables colorbearer was fourth in his most recent start, an allowance at Belmont on June 27.
He has been working steadily at Saratoga for his return to action, most recently turning in a seven-furlong breeze in 1:28 4/5 on Tuesday.
The dark bay colt has license to run well at Monmouth. His dam, the Deputy Minister mare Atelier, won the Molly Pitcher Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G2) for trainer Shug McGaughey here in 2002.
ATONED - Trainer Todd Pletcher will be going for an unprecedented third straight Haskell victory with Dogwood Stable’s colt, who is stabled at Monmouth in the care of assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta Jr.
Atoned, who finished second in both his Monmouth preps for the Haskell - the Spend a Buck Stakes on June 14 and the Long Branch on July 12 - will run in blinkers for the first time Sunday.
The son of Repent, who has two wins and seven seconds in 12 lifetime starts, wore the blinkers last Saturday when he breezed a half-mile in :50 flat at Monmouth.
“He schooled in the gate with the blinkers on this morning,” Sciametta said Wednesday. “When you add blinkers, you have to take the horse to the gate with them on.”
Atoned has had his final breeze and will gallop each day leading to the Haskell, Sciametta said.
Edgar Prado, originally scheduled to ride Hey Byrn in the Haskell, will take the mount on Atoned for the first time.
Pletcher has won the Haskell the past two years with Bluegrass Cat in 2006 and Any Given Saturday last year.
COAL PLAY/ COOL COAL MAN - The two sons of Mineshaft, both of whom have won at Monmouth, form a strong entry for owner Robert V. La Penta and trainer Nick Zito. The two colts have been working steadily at Saratoga for the Haskell.
Coal Play made his first start at Monmouth memorable on May 25, when he led all the way at a mile and 70 yards, and then drew off late to win an allowance race by more than nine lengths for his second lifetime score.
In his next start on July 4, Coal Play raced wide while pressing the pace and had to settle for third.
Joe Bravo, who was aboard in both races here, will have the mount on Sunday.
Cool Coal Man won his only Monmouth start, beating Atoned by a neck in the Spend a Buck Stakes in June, his most recent start.
The colt was one of Zito’s main Kentucky Derby hopes this winter when he won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. However, he turned in a poor effort over Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Blue Grass Stakes, and then finished 15th - nearly 32 lengths behind Big Brown - in the Kentucky Derby. The Spend a Buck was his comeback effort after the Derby.
Eddie Castro, who rode Cool Coal Man in his stakes win here, has the mount for the Haskell.
MAGICAL FOREST - The son of Forest Camp, who has won his last two, including the Grade 3 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware, trains at Aqueduct with the other horses Joe DeMola has for owner Ernie Paragallo’s Paraneck Stable.
Magical Forest has taken four of 11 starts this year, but was fifth in his only Monmouth appearance, the six-furlong Rumson Stakes on May 31 when he appeared to dislike the muddy track.
However, when stretched out after the Rumson, Magical Forest won the Floor Show Stakes at Delaware in June, and followed with his Barbaro score on July 13.
Jorge Chavez, aboard in the Barbaro, gets the riding call again.
NISTLE’S CRUNCH -The New Jersey-bred son of Van Nistelrooy, who makes his first home state start Sunday, arrived at Monmouth at 5 a.m. Wednesday after a van ride from Kentucky.
Nistle’s Crunch, owned and bred by the Alien Farm of New Jersey residents Michael Harrison and Dr. Alan Furst, has made his last three starts on the grass. He is the only member of the Haskell field to have won on all three surfaces - dirt, turf and synthetic.
The colt breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 for trainer Ken McPeek at Churchill Downs last Saturday.
He gets a new rider Sunday in Elvis Trujillo.
HEY BYRN - Bea Oxenberg’s colt, who was scheduled to run in the Haskell, suffered a bout of colic Saturday night and was sent to the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, N.J.
“He had a touch of colic Saturday night, and we decided it was best to send him to the clinic on Sunday,” said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “It looks like he’s recovering, but it came at a bad time.
“It’s a disappointment for the owner, who was looking forward to Hey Byrn running in the Haskell,” Plesa said. “And it’s a disappointment for me because I was looking forward to reuniting Edgar Prado and Hey Byrn in the Haskell. Edgar really wanted to come down here for the ride.”
With Hey Byrn out, Prado will take the mount on Atoned Sunday.