Will Bob Baffert Return To Monmouth Park For 2021 Haskell Stakes?

Call this the Monmouth Park Trifecta. The Oceanport facility’s signature race, the $1 million Haskell Stakes on July 17, is generating three hot news items.

They form an immediate, near-term, and long-term context for New Jersey online horse betting.

Bu leading up the Haskell, Monmouth Park will continue with its 2021 weekend racing schedule.

Garden State bettors can attend the races or access the action via 4NJBETS., powered by TVG.

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Immediate: Mandaloun and another Kentucky Derby connection

Mandaloun is the probable favorite in Sunday’s $150,000 Pegasus, a prep race for the Haskell.

The Kentucky Derby runner-up, who could be declared the champion of that race after Medina Spirit failed a second post-race drug test, joins a parade of stellar horses running here the same year they enjoyed a big Derby performance.

Mandaloun’s trainer Brad Cox spoke about this weekend’s race.

“I want him to get some experience at Monmouth and I’m looking to use the race as a fitness tool, as a prep from the Haskell,” said Cox via a Monmouth Park press release. “I didn’t want to go 11 weeks without a race. This was the race we thought made the most sense on the calendar.”

However, the Haskell is well known for attracting recent Triple Crown winners like American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

Maximum Security, who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified, and Authentic, who won the Haskell and then the Derby last year, all graced Monmouth Park at their peak.

Plus, American Pharoah,  Justify, and Authentic won Horse of the Year honors.

If Mandaloun wins the Pegasus, he might enter the Haskell.

Near-Term: Bob Baffert ‘is welcome’ to attend Haskell Stakes

It’s unknown if Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will enter the Haskell.

He is barred from racing in Kentucky and New York over Medina Spirit’s failed drug test. However, he is in the clear as far as Monmouth Park is concerned.

Dennis Drazin, the CE0 of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park, believes Baffert has been denied due process.

“Bob Baffert is welcome,” Drazin told NJ Gambling Sites.   “I am a lawyer and have been doing this since 1975.

“The way things normally work is that if a trainer comes up with a positive test and another lab verifies it, the racing commission might issue either a fine or a suspension. Then the trainer has the right of appeal.”

Drazin also notes Baffert is not facing a commission suspension here in the Garden State.

Of course, that is not the case at Churchill Downs.

“Churchill Downs (the Derby host track) banned him and not only Bob but Jimmy Barnes, his assistant. That means no one can even enter a horse for Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs,” said Drazin. “That’s unheard of, it has not been done before. …

Drazin adds if one racing commission in the country suspended Baffert, every state, even New Jersey, would honor it.

But the due process would also enable Baffert to likely obtain a “stay,” letting him run horses while the legal process played out, perhaps over 12 to 18 months.

That time cover would permit entry in this, and possibly next year’s Haskell, even if a commission suspended Baffert now.

Baffert has lifted the Haskell profile, bringing Authentic, Justify, and American Pharoah here at the height of their popularity.

Thanks to American Pharoah, Monmouth produced a record crowd of 60,983 in 2015.

And it was his initial race after authoring racing’s first Triple Crown sweep in 37 years.

“Bob Baffert has made the race what it is,” Drazin said.

“… He won our race repeatedly. Bob is a great friend to Monmouth Park and to New Jersey racing. Without him bringing all these top horses here, we would not have had the success we’ve enjoyed.”

Baffert + Monmouth Park memories

In a 2020 interview with NJ Gambling Sites, Baffert recalled the ’15 Haskell being one of his fondest Monmouth Park memories.

“It had already been a great time enjoying the visit with friends in New Jersey,” Baffert said, “and I’ll never forget what I saw when the horses went in the starting gate. I looked to my right and all the jockeys who were racing that afternoon came out of their dressing rooms and got up close to the action.

“Even the jockeys wanted to watch American Pharoah.”

And they watched him romp to victory.

Baffert’s warm relationship with NJ officials hasn’t obscured safety issues surrounding horse racing. Drazin said the sport needed to rid itself of cheaters.

The New Jersey Racing Commission barred Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, Monmouth’s dominant trainers for nearly a decade.

NJ also seeks to enhance safety by inspecting all horses before they run, Drazin said. Post-race drug tests are also administered and can take 72 hours on a good time cycle.

Drazin added safety rules and medications should be uniform in all states.

Long term: Nuts and bolts of fixed-odds wagering

Bettors don’t need exhaustive details of the legislative process. Bottom line: Fixed-odds wagering is coming, most likely permanently.

Fixed odds allow customers to lock in a price ahead of the race rather than rely on pari-mutuel wagering, which is a pool with odds that become final at post time.

S0 here is what we know so far.

A pilot program allows Monmouth to offer it on-site at the Haskell and that will probably happen.  Drazin said tellers will be able to sell wagers on fixed odds and machines will give customers the fixed-odds option.

How soon bettors can wager before the Haskell is to be determined.

Perhaps 50 machines will be converted and operational by that time and many brand-new machines with fixed-odds will probably come later.

And  here’s the best news:

“It is our hope that pretty soon you will be able to wager on fixed odds on any device you use,” said Drazin. “That can mean the racetrack, the sportsbook, the casino, and eventually all of this online.”

Drazin considers this mechanism a major, untapped resource.

“In Australia, where fixed odds have been very successful, they have 30 million people and bet $30 billion on horse racing,” Drazin said. “In this country, we have 300 million people betting $10 billion.”

AP Photo/Mel Evans

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.