With this year’s Triple Crown series seeing three different winners, a midseason threat in the three-year-old championship race seems to be emerging with Home Brew, who found success this past weekend at Monmouth Park on the Jersey Shore.
Home Brew took the June 18 TVG Pegasus Stakes with an impressive performance, beating the field by 6 1/2 lengths under jockey Paco Lopez. The Brad Cox-trained horse earned a Beyer speed figure of 97 for the effort around 1 1/16 Miles; by contrast, the Belmont Stakes champion Mo Donegal earned a 98 Beyer figure for his 1 1/2 Miles performance on June 11.
The Pegasus serves as the final Monmouth Park prep for its marquee race, the $1 million Haskell Stakes for three-year-olds on July 23. Home Brew and another Cox horse — Cyberknife, the Arkansas Derby winner who recently triumphed in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs — are pointed to either the Haskell or the July 30 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, according to the Daily Racing Form.
But Cyberknife earned a career-best 94 Beyer speed figure in the Matt Winn Stakes, three less than Home Brew’s victory in the ungraded Pegasus Stakes. Moreover, while Cyberknife scored his victory by getting his nose in front at the wire, Home Brew had a much more visually impressive effort in the Pegasus — stalking a swift pace, then displaying tactical speed at the top of the stretch with a three-wide bid for the lead.
Lopez went to the whip in the stretch to get Home Brew well clear of the field, but had geared the Street Sense colt down in the final sixteenth of a mile, riding him in hand to the wire.
The Haskell Stakes is looking to be a far tougher field than that which Home Brew bested in the Pegasus Stakes, with several Triple Crown race runners probable for the Grade 1 contest.
Among the possible Haskell contenders, according to Horse Racing Nation, are Florida Derby winner White Abarrio (running in this weekend’s Ohio Derby at Thistledown) and Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba, both of whom flopped in the Kentucky Derby. Besides Home Brew, the most intriguing Haskell hopeful is Jack Christopher, whose won both of his starts this year with impressive efforts in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs and the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Chad Brown-trained Jack Christopher has never run around two turns before, and his pedigree (by sprinter Munnings) provides some question as to whether he can get a route.
Even so, Home Brew is one to consider for the Haskell Stakes on July 23. He’s improved in every outing thus far, and has the pedigree to handle the 1 1/8 miles distance without a problem. Depending on how the Haskell field shapes up, he could also go off at a very nice price — probably no less than 3-1.
Race to Watch this Weekend: The Mother Goose Stakes
Formerly a part of the Triple Tiara of three-year-old filly races on the NYRA circuit, the Mother Goose has become something of an afterthought in recent years, being run just two weeks after the more lucrative Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day.
Just five horses are entered in the $250,000 Grade 2 race, led by the likely favorite Juju’s Map. Second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last November, she won her first race off a six-month layoff on May 6 during the Kentucky Oaks undercard. She’s won or placed in all five of her career starts.
Two horses who were soundly beaten by Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks are also running in the Mother Goose: Shahama (6th), winner of the UAE Oaks; and Venti Valentine (14th), who’s looking for her first graded stakes win.
The field also includes Gerrymander, who won the Tempted Stakes at Belmont Park last year as a two-year-old, beating a field that included Nest, the eventual Kentucky Oaks runner-up. Gerrymander flattened out badly in her only start since that race, a disappointing sixth-place showing in the Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs in May.
Rounding out the field is longshot Midnight Stroll, who ran ninth in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico last out.
Juju’s Map had it her own way at Churchill in her 2022 debut, setting the pace and drawing off in the stretch. She can win on the lead or by stalking the pace early, and has demonstrated that coveted tactical speed. Off her seasonal debut, it’s hard to see her regressing in her second start off a six-month layoff.
Gerrymander, a need-the-lead type of runner, could be a threat to engage Juju’s Map in a speed duel early, however, and if the fractions are too fast, that could bode well for a closer like Shahama.
The best hope for Gerrymander is to do what she did in the Tempted last fall: Go to the lead, set soft early fractions and lull the field to sleep. It’s possible, but highly unlikely.
Our picks: Juju’s Map, Shahama, Gerrymander.