Here comes a mid-summer, Garden State spectacle. New Jersey becomes the center of the horse-racing world Saturday with the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes from Monmouth Park.

Garden State gamblers can bet on this summit of the nation’s top 3-year-old thoroughbreds live at the Oceanport facility or via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.

The Haskell post time is 5:45 p.m., as the 12th race on a 14-race schedule begins at noon.

A loaded undercard marks Monmouth’s bid to maximize a captive gambling audience. Throughout the afternoon, a supporting card contains four additional graded stakes: $500,000 Grade 1, United Nations, $300,000 Grade 3, Monmouth Cup, $250,000, Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, and  $150,00, Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes.

It’s a  full day of horse betting geared to produce a multi-million-dollar handle.

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What does the 2021 Haskell look like?

Here is the result of Wednesday’s draw with post positions and early betting odds.

Post PositionHorse Morning Line Odds
1Following Sea3-1
2Antigravity30-1
3Mandaloun2-1
4Hot Rod Charlie6-5
5Pickin Time20-1
6Midnight Bourbon9-2
7Basso30-1

The road to possible Horse-of-the-Year honors passes through the Oceanport facility with the 54th running of the event, launched in 1968.

Recent Haskell winners who became Horse of the Year include Authentic from 2020, Maximum Security in 2019, and American Pharoah in 2015.

Haskell Stakes has star power

The Haskell, one of the industry’s most prestigious races, is historically deep this year.  It features the three runners-up from the Triple Crown races for the first time ever. The horses are:

  • Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby
  • Midnight Bourbon in the Preakness
  • Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes

The winner of this event gains automatic entry into the Nov. 6 Breeders Cup Classic at Del Mar in California.

From a class perspective, Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, and Midnight Bourbon tower over the field. The wild-card is whether other horses run so hard early that they lure one of the big three into a compromising speed duel.

In theory, the top three horses would like to gain position at the top of the lane and thunder through the homestretch in what amounts to a match race.

Will they get that chance?

How the race shapes up

Here’s a look at the top contenders.

Hot Rod Charlie was established as the morning-line favorite behind a blazing performance at the Belmont Stakes. He finished second to Essential Quality after being caught in a draining speed duel with Rock Your World.

The Belmont fractions, 22.78 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 46.49 for one half-mile, were incredibly fast for the 1 1–2-mile race. The times were even faster than the 1 1–4-mile Kentucky Derby, which had splits of 23.09 seconds for the quarter and 46.70 for the half.

That means the long Belmont race, which should be run more slowly early, was contested faster than the shorter Derby. In theory, Hot Rod Charlie should have fallen apart at the Belmont. But he ran a game second and notched a career-high Beyer figure of 108.

(A Beyer figure, among other things, measures a horse’s performance against the track conditions on that day and the track record for the distance.)

Hot Rod Charlie vs. Haskell Stakes field

Now that he shortens up to 1 1-8 miles, Hot Rod Charlie is in a good position here.

If Hot Rod Charlie repeats the Belmont performance, he wins here. That’s why he’s the favorite.

While Hot Rod Charlie improved after the Derby, Mandaloun scored a shaky subsequent victory over the Monmouth Park track, winning the Pegasus in June. After breaking last in the five-horse field, he moved up and had just enough to win. Not a great performance, but a victory over the track is beneficial.

Midnight Bourbon broke badly in the Kentucky Derby and finished sixth, behind Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie. He broke alertly in the Preakness and finished second, beating Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. This horse always runs hard and obtains jockey Paco Lopez, a seven-time Monmouth riding champion.

Here’s the pace uncertainty:  Following Sea.

After coming out of a 6 1–2-furlong race at Belmont Park, he is the logical pacesetter. He has to stretch out to 1 1-8 miles and graduate from allowance company to major-stakes foes, a monumental jump. This resembles going from AA to the major leagues in MLB.

Speed nonetheless is valuable at Monmouth Park and he’s being respected on the morning line.

Will he lure Hot Rod Charlie into a speed duel? If he does, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon benefit.

Antigravity has a win over the track, but steps way up from the allowance ranks to major stakes.

Pickin Time and Basso have been soundly beaten in cheaper races and look to be over their heads.

Betting considerations

Midnight Bourbon will remain a good win-bet price. If that’s your favorite horse, that’s a good first wager.

But with Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun, the win-line might not be profitable. And a $1 trifecta box with them alongside Midnight Bourbon won’t pay much either.

Here’s another idea: For $20, take a $10 straight trifecta with your favorite horse over the other two. This should return more money than win-bet odds, at least those of Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun.

Bettors can also check projected exacta payouts before wagering. An exacta box with Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie will pay peanuts unless the bettor slams it.

If Following Sea’s odds stay where they started, it gets even harder to cash a profitable trifecta or superfecta (top four finishers). The superfecta makes financial sense either if Midnight Bourbon can win or a longshot like Antigravity can profit from a speed duel and capture third or fourth.

Besides the Haskell, on-site gamblers can also enjoy a William Hill sportsbook on its premises. It is located on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Customers can watch every big game over 100HDTVs and a 75-foot video wall. They can also bet on the horses.

Saturday hours are 9 a.m.-1 a.m.

AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

About

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.