Secretariat

The Race That Made The Haskell

With a number of top 3-year-olds who left their mark on the Triple Crown races possibly heading for the July 17 Haskell Invitational, it brings back memories of the greatest Haskell of them all when Alysheba, Bet Twice, and Lost Code put on a show for the ages. It proved to be the coming out party for the Haskell as one of the top races in the country and also for a writer who was just starting to cover races for a fledgling publication. ~ Steve Haskin

The Race That Made the Haskell

By Steve Haskin

 

This year’s Haskell Invitational is shaping up as one of the most contentious in years. The race formerly known as the Monmouth Invitational Handicap has been around since 1968 when a giant of a horse named Balustrade, who had previously run in steeplechase races, took the inaugural running. The race, run two weeks, then eventually three weeks before the Travers Stakes, gave 3-year-olds an excellent alternative to the Jim Dandy Stakes as a prep for the prestigious Midsummer Derby. Yes. I said two, then three weeks, which was plenty of time between races back then. To show how much racing has changed, the Haskell is now run six weeks before the Travers.

The Monmouth Invitational continued to attract top horses looking for a lucrative purse and grade 1 status. In 1981, the name of the race was changed to the Haskell Invitational Handicap to honor Amory Haskell, the great innovative mind who put Monmouth Park back on the map. More on him later.

In 1986, I joined the new Thoroughbred Times as a freelance feature writer and New Jersey correspondent. The magazine (in newspaper form) was founded by Mark Simon, who had been my copy editor at the Thoroughbred Record, where I wrote features for a number of years. Later in 1986, I covered my first race as a reporter, the Haskell won by longshot Wise Times. After that, you could say the race and I sort of grew together.

But to set the stage for the 1987 Haskell, the race that put Monmouth Park in the national spotlight and helped launch my career, we have to go back and take a brief look at the history of Monmouth.

Most people don’t realize how much history has transpired there since the post-Civil War days. Monmouth has been a microcosm of racing in America since 1870, complete with a “Civil War” showdown in 1871 between Longfellow, the pride of the South, and the North’s Harry Bassett. Over a quarter of a million dollars was bet on the race, with much of the money on Longfellow being raised by the mortgaging of plantations by prominent Southerners. Harry Bassett was heavily backed by Northern and Western cash. Over 25,000 jammed the track to witness the South rise again for a brief moment, as Longfellow came home the easy winner.

It is safe to say no track has been as innovative as Monmouth over the years, especially during the reign of Amory Haskell and then Phil Iselin. Today, when people think of the track they call they jewel of the Jersey Shore, what comes to mind are ocean breezes, family picnics, children frolicking in the playground, weekend activities, and sitting under umbrella-shaded tables overlooking the picturesque English-style walking ring.

But few people realize that in 1891, reformist elements waged a war on racing when outlaw tracks such as Guttenberg and other small plants sprung up around the Garden State, forcing Monmouth to transfer its meet to the old Morris and Jerome Parks in New York.

Monmouth was dealt its fatal blow in 1892 when two of its mainstays, George Lorillard and David D. Withers, who were part of the syndicate that purchased the track in 1878, died in succession. Although the track ran successful meets in 1892 and ’93, the reformists, along with the state Legislature and an ambitious district attorney from Monmouth County put the seal on Monmouth’s demise. There would be no racing there for the next 53 years.

It wasn’t until 1944 that Amory Haskell formed a corporation to build a new Monmouth Park. Haskell hired Phil Iselin as chairman of the construction committee, and on June 14, 1946, Monmouth’s great tradition was reborn.

One by one, the innovations mounted. Haskell, an opera buff, built the unique parterre boxes, patterned after the Golden Horseshoe boxes at the Metropolitan Opera House. Each box had its own overhead fan, a dining table in the rear, cushioned chairs up front for viewing the races, and a buzzer on the wall to summon your waitress.

Among its other innovations were a 75-foot-long swimming pool for the jockeys, air conditioning in the pressbox, a ferry service from New York City, a two-way intercom system from the stewards to the patrol judges, the installation of a teletimer, electrical timing of fractions of races, the posting of a shoeboard (informing fans of the types of shoes worn by the horses), and projection of the first color television from a racetrack.

Monmouth also installed the first closed-circuit videotape control TV, was the first racetrack in the world to have hot water running in every barn, the first track to have identification and clocking of horses working out, the first track to have escalators in both the grandstand and clubhouse, and was one of the pioneers of grass racing and steeplechase racing.

Haskell, who was a Master of Hounds, horse breeder, clubman, amateur actor, politician, and businessman, was always concerned about backstretch conditions and fire safety. Each barn was placed 100 feet apart and had toilets, showers, and living quarters. All stalls were fireproofed, each barn had fire boxes, and there were three fire patrol jeeps equipped with short-wave telephones, with a man on patrol between every two barns from dusk to dawn. And right on the backstretch was a fire house.

When Haskell died in 1966, and then Iselin 10 years later, Monmouth Park pretty much lost its soul. Competition was closing in from all sides, from Philadelphia Park, off-track betting in New York and surrounding states, and simulcasting and casino gambling in New Jersey. Monmouth now had a fight on its hands, as Garden State Park owner Robert Brennan attempted to gain control of the track.

In September of 1985, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority took over control of Monmouth in an effort to prevent Brennan or anyone else from monopolizing racing in southern New Jersey. With Monmouth’s 1,500 shareholders receiving payments and owning a total of 776,000 shares of stock, it brought the sale to between $40 and $45 million. Brennan threatened to sue to stop the sale, but shortly thereafter agreed to drop litigation.

The Sports Authority brought in a young energetic and aggressive team led by New Jersey Racing Commission director and counsel Hal Handel, who teamed up with assistant general manager Lou Raffetto, a fixture at Monmouth since the early 1970s. Carol Hodes was brought down from Meadowlands to head the public relations department, Bob Kulina, who was born into racing, brought a new enthusiasm as racing secretary, and Jim Gagliano, who came up through the ranks, took over as special events coordinator, working closely with Handel and Raffetto.

To demonstrate the talent involved and the launch pad Monmouth became, Kulina went on to become president of Monmouth Park; Handel was named executive vice president and chief operating officer for the New York Racing Association; and Gagliano continued his rise by eventually being named president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club.

Also in 1985, the Haskell attracted Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck, who was upset by the Sonny Hine-trained Skip Trial. Spend a Buck bounced back to win the Iselin Handicap over older horses by a nose in track-record time of 1:46 4/5.

The following year, the Iselin Handicap attracted two of America’s leading horses, future Hall of Famers Lady’s Secret and Precisionist. Both ran each other into submission early in the slop and were upset by Lady’ Secret’s stablemate Roo Art. The Haskell also saw an upset when Wise Times defeated Personal Flag, Danzig Connection, and Broad Brush at odds of 11-1.

Racing at Monmouth Park was alive and well again, with great promise for the future, especially as an alternative to Saratoga.

But those two meets merely were a preview of what was to come in 1987, the year Monmouth Park and the Haskell made their first major impact on American racing, catapulting the track to new heights and establishing it as one of the premier venues in the country.

First, racing’s one-man conglomerate, D. Wayne Lukas, opened a barn at Monmouth Park (run by assistant Kiaran McLaughlin) and raced his defending Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret there on three occasions. In one of those races, an allowance score, she became the leading female earner of all time, bringing even more attention to Monmouth. In his first year, Lukas’ stable earned over $1 million, which more than doubled the previous record. That same year, Angel Cordero Jr. came to Monmouth and rode the winners of both divisions of the Colleen Stakes, becoming only the fourth jockey in history to ride 6,000 winners, joining Johnny Longden, Bill Shoemaker, and Laffit Pincay Jr.

But it was that year’s Haskell Invitational that put Monmouth Park and the Haskell on the map, attracting Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba; the local hero, Belmont Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bet Twice; and the rising star Lost Code, winner of seven consecutive races, including four Derbys and the grade I Arlington Classic.

I couldn’t have asked for a better race to cover as the eyes of the racing world were on Monmouth Park. There was an electricity in the air. Would Alysheba or Bet Twice step up and establish himself as a clear-cut leader of the division or would the brilliant Lost Code forge to the front of the class?

And behind each horse was a story. At the upper end of the spectrum was Alysheba, the classically bred colt with a regal air about him who sold for $500,000 as a yearling.Still eligible for a non-winners of 2 after nine career starts, he was reborn following surgery to free an entrapped epiglottis. Alysheba was sheer artistry, his neck arched in regal splendor as he galloped along, his feet barely touching the ground. In the Kentucky Derby, he stumbled shortly after turning for home when Bet Twice drifted out in front of him, nearly unseating jockey Chris McCarron, who was amazed at the son of Alydar’s athleticism. Alysheba, somehow averting disaster, picked himself up and ran down Bet Twice, despite being interfered with a second time. He then came back and again powered past Bet Twice to win the Preakness before finishing an uninspired fourth in the Belmont Stakes when he was forced to race without Lasix, which was prohibited in New York.

Bet Twice, who crushed the Belmont by 14 lengths, had shown such a disdain for training when he first came to trainer Jimmy Croll’s barn that he had to be taken to the track with a buggy whip to get him to train. As he matured he began working five furlongs in :58 without raising a sweat. More of a nondescript-looking colt, the son of Sportin’ Life won his first five career starts, beginning in June of his 2-year-old campaign. He continued to improve, rattling off victories in the Sapling Stakes, Arlington-Washington Futurity, and Laurel Futurity. He also was the hometown hero, stabled in Croll’s longtime barn at Monmouth located just past the stable gate, and owned by one of New Jersey’s most familiar figures, Robert Levy.

Finally, at the opposite end of the spectrum was the Bill Donovan-trained Lost Code, the $7,300 yearling whose meteoric rise brought the financially troubled Donovan family out of debt and into tax brackets they never dreamed of. The horse’s earnings of over $900,000 in 1987 alone was a far cry from the $70,198 earned by all of Donovan’s horses the year before. Lost Code accomplished this after bleeding so profusely after a race at Birmingham earlier in the year that the blood stains were still on the walls of his stall. In addition to winning the Arlington Classic, the son of Codex had rattled off brilliant victories in the Ohio Derby, Illinois Derby, St. Paul Derby, and Alabama Derby.

Lost Code held an amazing amount of flesh for a horse with so much racing under him, and his gallops were always strong and aggressive, with his open mouth and glaring eyes. The Donovans’ son Pat, who also was his father’s assistant and exercise rider, had his hands full trying to contain all that energy. After galloping Lost Code two miles on the Thursday before the Haskell, he said as he came off the track, “I can’t open my hands.”

The race received tremendous billing, as the entire racing world awaited one of the most anticipated three-horse battles since Damascus, Dr. Fager, and Buckpasser clashed in the 1967 Woodward Stakes.

A week before the race, most of the talk centered around Alysheba when Van Berg announced the colt would race without Lasix. Many believed that racing without Lasix contributed to his lackluster effort in the Belmont Stakes.

“Jack and I knew a month ago he wasn’t going to race with Lasix, but he didn’t want to tell anyone,” said Clarence Scharbauer, who co-owned Alysheba with his wife Dorothy.

Van Berg said, “I just got tired of listening to everybody. The horse gets beat two noses for second in the Belmont and all of a sudden he’s a drug addict.”

Alysheba also had developed a nasty case of fungal dermatitis that exploded all over the colt’s body and neck. By race day it was still visible, but vastly improved.

A crowd of 32,836 packed Monmouth, the largest since 1971, and wagered a record $4.4 million. Only two others showed up – Clever Secret, winner of the Lamplighter Handicap, and a New Jersey-bred sprinter named Born to Shop. The crowd, partial to the house horse, Bet Twice, sent him off as the 6-5 favorite, with Alysheba 3-2, and Lost Code 2-1.

Regardless of the outcome, Monmouth Park had hit the big-time, with the eyes of the racing world fixed on the Jersey Shore.

Lost Code, as expected, went for the early lead, with Born to Shop along the rail, Bet Twice on the outside, and Alysheba caught between horses. Passing the stands, Chris McCarron had to check slightly on Alysheba and it looked as if it was going to be another eventful trip, as was the Belmont.

Going into the first turn, Lost Code held a clear lead, with Alysheba still stuck between horses. Born to Shop then played his only role in the race by bumping Alysheba out into Bet Twice, which precipitated a series of minor bumps with Alysheba caught in the middle.

“Alysheba wasn’t where he likes to be,” said Bet Twice’s rider Craig Perret. “I think Chris was trying to outrun me a little and I didn’t want that to happen. Lost Code came out a bit and took the ground away from Alysheba. I was in a position to control the horses inside of me and I took it to my advantage.”

Lost Code continued to lead down the backstretch and around the far turn. After a solid half in :46 3/5, he turned it up a notch and went the next quarter in :23 flat to cover the six furlongs in a swift 1:09 3/5. Alysheba and Bet Twice closed in nearing the head of the stretch, with Perret still refusing to let Alysheba out. It was decision time for McCarron. Should he wait for an opening along the rail or let Bet Twice go and then swing to the outside, which would cost him ground and momentum.

“I knew pretty much between the five-sixteenths pole and the quarter pole I was going to have to go around,” McCarron said. “When I angled out, he went a lot further than I expected. He’s like a cat. It’s unbelievable how agile he is. He took off so fast, his body went one way and his feet went the other.”

Turning for home, Bet Twice stuck his head in front of Lost Code, who continued to battle back on the inside. Alysheba, who had lost valuable momentum, finally found his best stride and began closing the gap on Bet Twice and Lost Code, while well out toward the middle of the track.

Passing the eighth pole, the mile in a testing 1:34 flat, Bet Twice still clung to a head lead over a tenacious Lost Code, with Alysheba chopping into the lead with every stride. The race was everything everyone had hoped for, as the three horses battled to the wire — Bet Twice hanging on gamely, Lost Code still trying to come back at him, and Alysheba relentless on the far outside.

At the finish, Bet Twice prevailed by a neck over Alysheba, with Lost Code another neck back in third. The final time of 1:47 flat equaled the stakes record and missed Spend A Buck’s track record by a fifth of a second.

All three horses had run their hearts out, which brought a flood of emotions from their connections. Bet Twice’s owner, Bob Levy, had tears in his eyes as he came into the winner’s circle, which was adorned with dozens of Bet Twice buttons worn by the colt’s multitude of shareholders.

“What a great ride by Craig,” Levy said, “I think this crop of 3-year-olds is as deep as any we’ve had in a long time.”

Jimmy Croll couldn’t help but pay tribute to Lost Code. “I really didn’t think he’d last as long as he did,” he said. “To be honest, I thought if we looked him in the eye he would back up, but he didn’t. I’m tickled to death for Bill Donovan.”

Van Berg was proud of Alysheba’s effort and sent out a warning to the press, “If anyone mentions Lasix I’m gonna hit him right in the nose. I’ll tell you one thing, this horse has one damn big heart. He had to go through an awful lot with that rash. I think his final eighth was the most impressive eighth he’s ever run.”

Bill Donovan, who few people had ever heard of prior to Lost Code, could barely contain his emotions. Lost Code had taken him and his family on the ride of their lives at a time when they desperately needed it.

“I’m so proud of my colt,” he said. “We have nothing to be ashamed of. We came and we found out that we fit with the very best. He gave it all he had.”

Back at Croll’s barn, groom Tony Cucinotti rubbed Bet Twice’s shoulders and said, “Look at him, no sweat at all. That’s what you call cooling out good.”

A few moments later. Levy arrived with his wife Cissie, who could not keep her hands off Bet Twice. “I absolutely adore this animal,” she said. “It’s not just because he’s a winner. He’s a real character, a showman. You just get to love him. When they give you something out of their heart you know it.”

At Alysheba’s barn, Clarence Scharbauer said he was amazed at his colt’s constitution and announced he would definitely race as a 4-year-old and possibly even at 5. As we all know, Alysheba went on at 4 to become of the greatest horses of the modern era, and perhaps one of the most underrated horses of all time, considering what he accomplished at 3 and especially at 4.

A few stalls down, the Donovans were still beaming as if they had won. “I’m overwhelmed just to be a part of this,” said Pat Donovan. Soon, a loud whinny could be heard coming from Lost Code’s stall. Groom Gene Sanderson was bringing in the colt’s feed tub, in which Lost Code promptly buried his head.

“Hey, Bill, he really looks tired, doesn’t he?” Donna Donovan called to her husband. “This was such a thrill for us.” Donna told Bill, “We made $55,000 today,” and he replied, “Yeah, a few months ago we didn’t have 55 dollars.”

The Alysheba – Bet Twice rivalry would continue well into 1988, highlighted by another rousing battle at Monmouth in the Philip Iselin Handicap won this time by Alysheba. Van Berg and Croll both were convinced the two colts knew each other. 

 “When we were at Pimlico (in 1988 for the Pimlico Special), Alysheba was stabled on the backside of our barn,” Croll said prior to the Iselin Handicap. “Jack was walking him one morning, and when he saw Bet Twice they both started hollering at each other, and they didn’t do it to any other horse.”

 Van Berg added, “They did it every morning. They just started nickering like the devil. No other horse in the barn did they holler at.”

 Even Alysheba’s groom, John Cherry, was amazed. “I know it sounds kind of weird, but it sure looked like they recognized each other,” he said.

Because of Alysheba and Bet Twice, and Lost Code, the Haskell became a major summer stop for the nation’s best 3-year-olds, as the purse continued to grow, eventually reaching $1 million. The following year, Forty Niner and Seeking the Gold put on a battle for the ages in near 100-degree heat and there was no turning back.

The Haskell continued to gain in popularity, with Bob Baffert winning the Haskell an incredible nine times. Todd Pletcher won it three times, with Steve Asmussen, Shug McGaughey, Dick Mandella, Chad Brown, and Bobby Frankel winning it once each. Asmussen, of course, won it with the great filly Rachel Alexandra, providing Monmouth with one of the greatest moments in the history of the track.

But no matter what happens this year or any year, no one will ever forget the 1987 Haskell. It was a day of camaraderie, emotion, and courage. It was a day when three special horses put on a show to remember. It was a day when the Haskell Invitational came of age, forever etched in racing lore.

 

Photos courtesy of Monmouth Park


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Leave a Reply to Matthew K Wohlken

98 Responses to “The Race That Made The Haskell”

  1. Kelly A Eefsting says:

    Absolutely loved this rivalry of Alysheba v Bet Twice (I was firmly in the Alysheba camp). This was the first Haskell that I watched after having fallen in love the year before with Snow Chief (and his Ferdinand “rivalry”). Great memories!

  2. Steve Haskin says:

    There is a new series starting Monday with a different twist.

  3. Matthew W says:

    Maybe 25 years ago or so, I think it was the San Antonio, 9 furlongs, and a trainer/owner/gambler friend told me that 9 furlongs on dirt was a specialty distance like no other, and she was betting an Oaklawn invader who was 3 for 3 at the distance, and was 11-1, I think Larry Snyder was riding….and he won, easily, and I never forgot that….

    10 furlongs is our classic distance, but there have been absolute world beaters at 9 furlongs, horses that were great at 9…..but only good at 10 furlongs— horses like Snow Chief, like Gun Runner, Quality Road, Precisionist…..Snow Chief wouldn’t crack the top 300 at TEN furlongs. At NINE furlongs, he could compete against the best ever….its only 220 yards, 12 seconds….but the difference is like night and day.

    • EddieF says:

      Agree about the difference between the classic 10f and 8f races. But Gun Runner was better than good at 10f. He just didn’t have many opportunities at the distance. I’m sure that everyone agrees that Gun Runner was a different horse at age 4. That’s when he finished a gallant second to Arrogate in the Dubai WC and later beat Arrogate with ease in the BC Classic. And it’s not like those “great” runners at 9f won every time at that distance.

      • Matthew K Wohlken says:

        I don’t think about “beating Arrogate”….lots of horses beat Arrogate in the end…..Arrogate lost, is more like it to me….I thought Gun Runner at 9 furlongs was an all-time great horse–not so at 10—I would take Gun Runner over some pretty good ones at 9 furlongs.

        • Matthew W says:

          Arrogate beat Gun Runner over 15 lengths in the Travers, the next year in Dubai he walks out of there—and Gun Runner runs unopposed and gets tagged by a freak down the lane—that is what I saw….Gun Runner–as great as he was at nine furlongs—got there first in the Classic—not saying he couldn’t get 10 furlongs–Snow Chief won two Gr 1’s at ten furlongs—Precisionist, too, and Ancient Title won I think four ten furlong Gr1 races–but they were all better at nine.

          • John Goggin says:

            Maybe this will help….when Arrogate came back from the Middle East and starting working out at Del Mar experts noticed that this great horse didn’t have that same thrust or propel that he did have previous…..even Mike Smith acknowledged that Arrogate’s rear two legs lagged the same push off as did before….he was perplexed….he said he seemed to vanish all of a sudden……perhaps Arrogate wanted to be forever on vacation and take a break from racing something like that Rachel Alexandra maybe wanted to be a mother and didn’t have the same fierce racing in her next season…don;t know….
            That said I’ll take Arrogate’s four top races against any horse in history even the great Secretsriat’ top four races….easily.

            • Matthew W says:

              Rachel—was whipped 31 times down the lane in the Woodward…..if you can get a look-see at the winners circle photo—Jess has both fists raised in victory—Rachel’s head is “scraping” the ground, and she was never the same race horse….Arrogate’s four races were special, no question, but Secretariat ran more great races than that, his Triple Crown—done in 5 weeks—beating Sham for fun and 10 1/2 lengths in front of the rest of them in the Derby/Preakness, then his Belmont, and then the Arlington race—that’s a good foursome, too, and he also ran that 1:45 2/5 Marlboro Cup vs some good horses….and Spectacular Bid—ran great race after great race after great race—and he had a hot spot, didn’t train as hard as most horses, he just kept blowing everybody away…..all in all a pretty good threesome.

  4. Davids says:

    Steve, I’ve posted responses to both you and Dewey but all the responses are awaiting ‘moderation’ for some reason. I’ve tried modifying the posts many times without success. Hope you are able to rectify the problem.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Leonarrd gets back from vacation Sunday. I will mention it to him. I, sure he can take care of that.

      • Davids says:

        Thanks, Steve. The loss of Galileo was a shock but not unexpected. You want them to live beyond their time. There are quite a few influential sires getting nearing that worrisome age.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Hey Steve—speaking of Little Current—he certainly had a bad trip in the 1974 derby—23 horses, wow! Shoemaker had to break and move Agitate from the rail, impeeding eventual winner Cannonade–who was coming out of the 2-slot—incredible that they both were able to finish in the top three—those inside horses were so far inside—I did not know that the 1975 20-horse Kentucky Derby limit was called “The Little Current Rule”, after the horse that might have been denied a Triple Crown but for the Derby field size….1974 was the centennial Derby, which I know that you knew that—

  6. Davids says:

    You didn’t miss much here, Steve. Even the scoundrel Brennan gets a message. Poor old Garden State Park gone forever. Monmouth has had her worries as well but hopefully, will remain forever. I remember Cryptoclearance as well as the others mentioned above. Funny how you rewatch these titanic struggles over and over again and the thrill never tires.

    Tomorrow Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern reacquaint at Newmarket (July Course) in the Falmouth Stakes. Snow Lantern gets the nod and the heart.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks for keeping us up to date on European racing. Do you live in England? If so where? Aidan has two strong contenders in Saturday’s Belmont Derby and Oaks, but they will likely get soft going. I would love to see Bolshoi Ballet bounce back after his dismal showing at Epsom.

      • Davids says:

        Steve, Snow Lantern was strong enough to win the Falmouth Stakes. I’ve been grounded in Melbourne, Australia ever since the world pandemic started and will probably be here for a while longer still. I’m going for Con Lima in the Belmont Oaks and Cellist in the Belmont Derby for an upset.

        • EddieF says:

          I’m looking for longshots, too. Looks like O’Brien is following the same pattern for Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara that he used successfully for Deauville and Athena in the same races. I’m probably going with Palazzi (15-1) and Higher Truth (12-1). Hope your “moderation” problem was resolved. I’m very curious about what it might have been! 🙂

          • Davids says:

            Hearing the sad news that Galileo had to be euthanized took away all the joy of racing today. Con Lima and Cellist performed admirably but it’s hard to beat horses that are bred and trained to excel at this distance or longer. Better luck next time.

            • EddieF says:

              I didn’t read about Galileo until later in the day. Very sad, but what a mark he left on the breed. It was only fitting that Bolshoi Ballet honored him with a dramatic win. Wish that Galileo had been in the BC Turf instead of the Classic as his final race.

  7. Derek Manthey says:

    You certainly nailed this. You brought me back to my favorite year. I had a love affair with Alysheba starting with the 86 Breeders Cup Juvenile. I spent that Haskell with my uncle and Godfather and to this day there’s a framed photo of the finish from the Asbury Park Press on my wall signed by my Godfather. What a race we just looked ay each other and said “WOW”. A few years later my Godfather started working as a Track Fireman at Monmouth, maybe you ran in to him a few times. Dick Manthey was his name and worked therefor 20 something years till 2016 till he was 80 years old. Monmouth always took care of there own. The backside stories he could tell were certainly eye opening. I certainly miss him and I bet they do on the backside.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That is awesome Derek. I can imagine the stories he has to tell. I remember one year when Biancone brought Le Voyageuse from France for the Haskell and they used the fire house as a quarantine barn. I hope you also have a framed photo of the Iselin when Alysheba won.

      • Derek Manthey says:

        Unfortunately my Uncle Dick passed 5 days before the 2016 Haskell. He always hooked me up down there and he was certainly a character. Remember the Dutrow- Wild Desert fiasco. I was the guy who called BYK and asked the question to DaSilva and then it went viral. I called Dick to tell him to watch his back just in case. He told me back” You started that. I wasn’t sure if he was mad at me and then he said “Good for you kid it’s about time somebody said something”

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I remember that well. Dick had to admit it. He had no choice. So youre the one who started it all, huh? You have earned you place in NJ/Canada history.

  8. sceptre says:

    No one, before or since, has come close to what Harvey offered. Harvey Pack simply had no peer. Back in the early 70s Harvey was my sole timely weekday link to the NY races as from Phila. I was able to tune in (weakishly) the radio to Harvey’s Pack At The Track. He was the greatest, no one like him.

  9. Matthew W says:

    I took my little black and white TV to work that day—-what a race! Lost Code was good! Alysheba and Bet Twice did have a rivalry, in fact, I never really thought Riva Ridge/ Key to the Mint WAS a rivalry, because they never really both hit the board, it seemed, not so with Alysheba/ Bet Twice, they seemed to always be battling in the stretch, like the greys Silver Charm/Free House.. ..recently we have Country Grammar/ Royal Ship throwing down two monster battles, there’s something about a rivalry….

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Youre right about Riva and KTTM. But they did face each other four times with championships on the line. But yes they werent really competitive rivals, just ran against each other a lot in big races. Another little known rivalry in California was Precisionist and Greinton. And underrated three-horse rivalry was Skip Away, Will’s Way, and Formal Gold.

      • EddieF says:

        The rivalry may not rank with the best ever, but the contests between Street Sense, Curlin, and Hard Spun were darn good.

      • Matthew W says:

        Precisionist/ Grienton I think faced off 8 times, splitting it 4 to 4, and running one/two each time…..I also recall a Behrens/Deputy Commander rivalry, with Will’s Way (?)…and a Kona Gold/Big Jag twosome, of course Forty Niner and Seeking the Gold had their throw downs! And Dr Fager/ Damascus, its just great when they deliver a knockout battle, like Trevor would say ” HERE’S what we were all waiting for……”…..1987 had a brief Broad Brush/ Ferdinand/ Snow Chief threesome…..

        • John Goggin says:

          Or the Ancient Title/Linda’s Chief rivalry…..faced each other 9 times with LC winning four times and placing second five times while AT winning four times and placing four times with the only non 1-2 or 2-1 being the SA Derby with Sham winning (LC second/AT fourth)

          • Matthew W says:

            WOW! I knew they faced of but did not know it was 9 times…there also were Groshawk and Out of the East–another Gummo—and I think I know when Linda’s Chief and Ancient Title won—Linda’s Chief beat the huge bay son of Gummo as a three year old—Ancient Title dominated linda-s as a four year old–in the Strub Series—‘Title was on fire during the Winter of ’74, he took every four year old race and I think he also won The Big Cap—‘Title won several 10 furlong races, but he was really not cut out for that–he was a large animal, and when he got hooked, Ancient Title had FIGHT—Stuki tried to train stamina into him, and all it did was remove his natural speed—making him a closer for a year or so….as he grew older, Stuke went back to what worked best, and ‘Title got his natural speed back—I drove my rickiye ’66 Bug down to Del Mar in Sept ’77 to watch him crush the del Mar Invitational–a precursor to the Pacific Classic—he set unbelievable fractions, and kept on going–7-1 odds, too—he was one of my all-time favorite horses…..

            • Matthew W says:

              One more remembrance: I went out to see ‘Title in the 1977 Carlton F Burke—10 furlongs TURF….and ‘Title was hooked by a Canadian horse, they set wicked pace, and another Cal-bred–by Nodouble named Double Discount beat Vigors to the wire, setting a world record—Double Discount was an enormous sway-back, whose biggest race was a photo loss in the 1974 Santa Anita Derby to An Act—when they were walking back to the barns, I saw Ancient Title, wet from sweat coming out of every pore, his veins bulging out of his skin, and I realized right there and then I was looking at the hardest trying race horse I ever laid my eyes on….

  10. Amy Hurley says:

    Excellent article with all the history on Monmouth and the Haskell. Thanks, Steve. It’s good to see Monmouth back at (almost) its prior level, after several years of low purses, few dates, and too many NJ-bred races. It looks like they’re surviving the no whips rule quite well, the absence of Jersey Joe notwithstanding. But I still wish he and Gallardo were riding there this summer.

    I was at the Monmouth Invitational in ’74 with Little Current losing by a nose to Holding Pattern; it was a great race, and Bombay Duck, who ran in the next year’s KY Derby, was on the undercard. Almost made up for my disappointment at missing Ruffian vs. Hot ‘n Nasty in the Sorority earlier that summer.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Amy, that ’74 Haskell was tough, me being a huge Little Current fan. Then he came back and did the same thing in the Travers.

      • SJ says:

        Holding Pattern ridden by Mike Miceli, a nicer guy you couldn’t find on any backside.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I didnt like him on that day. Lol Good trivia question, name the horse who defeated a male classic winner and a female classic (who combined won a total five classic races) in the same race.

      • Matthew W says:

        Little Current’s Travers was a great performance! He ate mud that day! And wore mud, maybe 20 lbs of it, ankle deep sticky stuff! One of the muddiedst races I can remember.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Yes, it was a mess and so deep, a quagmire. Little Current ran an awesome race. Just a tough race to fall one stride short

          • Matthew W says:

            I just watched that 1974 Travers, kickback was unreal, and Little Current, who lost by a nose—did not have his tail bobbed, I wonder why…..

            • SJ says:

              Not all trainers believe in tying a horses tail on off track. Actually, less common nowadays.

              • Matthew W says:

                No, you are right, they don’t bob tails as much today…but that particular race—there was so much mud slung—-it looked like clouds behind the runners!

                • Steve Haskin says:

                  They really didnt have the sealed tracks they have now, so no need to tie the tail. You dont often see those seas of slop anymore unless its before they have a chance to seal the track.

  11. Ms Black Type says:

    I hardly know where to start on this piece, Steve. Not only do you successfully segue from Harry Bassett and Longfellow — both profiled in “The Great Ones” — to Alysheba and Bet Twice, you sneak in a pithy history of one of the great historic tracks. In 1891 (as the fight over Guttenberg ensued) Monmouth Park was as elegant and chic as Jerome or Morris parks had ever been. I wasn’t aware of the innovations instituted in the 1940s at the new Monmouth Park. All very smart, and so helpful to the safety of horses and horsemen.

    And then you got to the good part! It’s easy to forget how magnificent Alysheba, Bet Twice, and Lost Code were as racehorses. Thank you for reviving a great series of races.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I appreciate it. Thank you. Loos lie youre a history buff. Thats good

      • Ms Black Type says:

        It’s almost ALL book learnin’. And reading a lot of really old DRFs and racing stories online. Wish someone hadn’t stolen all the Morning Telegraphs from the NY Public Library. A crying shame.

    • Angela Whyland says:

      Great history and writing. Really from from all of you, which could be the hallmark of a good discussion group. Perhaps, there are many who return faithfully to read. Then, again and again, for the comments.

  12. Betsy says:

    Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

    I’m sorry to post this here, but Steve, I wasn’t sure if you heard that Harvey Pack has passed. He was a huge part of my childhood; I loved him as host of NYRA replay show and of Inside Racing. My favorite part was when he threw the program in he air at the end and said “May the horse be with you”… Harvey was the kind of person any sport could use – he made horse racing fun while educating people. What an ambassador

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I go far back with Harvey. When the Morning Telegraph closed in 1972 an.d everyone cleared out, I stayed behind to clean out the library. It was just me, the telephone operator and some guys working the wire room. Harvey had come up with the idea of recreating the races on radio from the chart. He would come to the Telly every day and worked out of one of the offices, getting the charts from the wire room and then typing out his script. I often would go in and watch him type it out and record his shtick. Sometimes he would embellish certain things whenever a friend of mine was listening and had an interest in the race. Once my friend had a huge interest in one horse who won. To make it more effective Harvey had him stumbling coming out of the gate. It was fascinating watching him recreate the race as if he were actually watching it. His show became so popular, NYRA, which had tried to stop him from doing it, finally gave in and hired him to work for them, because he was taking business away.

      • Betsy Tarr says:

        Oh wow, that’s some story, Steve. Everyone has been talking about what a wonderful, genuinely nice guy Harvey was – and this story is a perfect example, wanting to make your friend happy – and also making the game exciting. Hiring him was one of the best decisions NYRA ever made; he was a blast to watch – I really loved his chemistry with John Imbriale and John Pricci. I have a bunch of really old video tapes, and on one of them there’s an original Inside Racing – it aired on the old Cablevision channel Sportschannel. Wow, I haven’t thought about that in years, lol. Probably on the same tape I have part of an episode of the ESPN show Down the Stretch, with Charlesy Canty and Chris Lincoln……

        Speaking of nostalgia, I’ve been so busy, but I can’t wait to read your historical articles. Do you remember a big, red book called The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America? My library used to have it – I used to love reading it, learning about old time racehorses; what a fabulous resource that was.

        I just also wanted to say one thing about the Suburban – I’m still in shock about it – less about Max winning (but !!!) than how he won. The fact that Steve and his crew were able to get this horse to sit so close to the pace (and still finish) is a testament to their brilliance and sheer hard work. Santana did a phenomenal job, but ultimately it would have been for naught had Max not agreed with them, lol What a solid horse he’s been, but being a deep closer was always going to hamper him; if he can continue this new running style, it could be a turning point. He’s surely got more to prove, but he was such a different horse on Saturday; I’m excited to see his next race.

        • Davids says:

          I think the book you mentioned is probably “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America” by William H. P. Robertson.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Lots of historical columns in the archives I think you’ll like. Agree, Steve did a great job with that horse

    • Davids says:

      Yes, Betsy. Sad to read the passing of Harvey Pack. The art of educating punters while having fun seems to be lost these days. On a happier note, I was thinking of you when Max Player crossed the line in the Suburban Handicap.

      • Betsy Tarr says:

        David, I agree…….and horse racing really needs people like Harvey.

        Aww, thanks! I just posted above about Max – that was a deeply satisfying win. I’ll be honest, I was really upset when they sent him to Saudi Arabia (I doubt it was Steve’s choice) as I thought that the trip would take too much out of him – and also that he wasn’t ready to face the best yet; I wanted him to build up his confidence. Then, originally (not having seen the race, just read the chart), I thought -hmm, another flat effort in the Pimlico Special; how disappointing. My fellow fan, however, was confident that Max didn’t have a great trip at Pimlico (wide, which several handicappers noted before the Suburban) and that he was set up to run a huge race. He was right, he did. I know he likes a sloppy track, but I honestly think the biggest factor in his victory was that shocking running style – it changed everything.

        Hope you are well!

        • Davids says:

          All is well, thank you. I’m a bit bleary eyed though watching the Tour de France, European Championship (soccer), and horse racing Hope everything is good with you.

    • Jiffy says:

      I too was very sorry to hear of Mr. Pack’s passing. My sympathy to his family. I have lots of fond memories of his broadcasts, and he also wrote a good book called May the Horse Be With You, which I enjoyed a lot some years ago. I should get it out and read it again.

  13. Dewey Hebert says:

    One of my favorite movies, “The Pope of Greenwich Village” (1964) is a gem with great casting. Eric Roberts is especially memorable as Paulie: ‘Charlie, they took my thumb’! Never mind, Paulie, have some soup.

    Monmouth gets exposure with the track scenes filmed there. Another favorite movie made the year before (1963), “A Bronx Tale” has a racetrack scene which was filmed at Aqueduct where Mush jinxes the gang by betting the same horse they have.
    When they see Mush has bet the same horse, they know well enough to tear up their tickets even with their horse leading in the stretch. Funny stuff.

    • Betsy says:

      Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

      I’m sorry to post this here, but Steve, I wasn’t sure if you heard that Harvey Pack has passed. He was a huge part of my childhood; I loved him as host of NYRA replay show and of Inside Racing. My favorite part was when he threw the program in he air at the end and said “May the horse be with you”… Harvey was the kind of person any sport could use – he made horse racing fun while educating people. What an ambassador he was.

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Well said, Betsy. Harvey Pack was great to listen to and his interviews were informative. RIP Harvey and may the horse always be with you.

        • Betsy Tarr says:

          Hi Dewey

          I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to post this in response to your post……but thank you! We should all live to be 94 – and more than that, live a life with such gusto!

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            No problem, Betsy.

            You know, it seems to me that most race trackers live to a ripe old age. A love of the horses has a positive impact on health and longevity.

            I also have followed Max Player and was pleased to see him live up to his potential in the Suburban. He promises to be a horse to be reckoned with on the trail to the Breeders Cup.

    • Davids says:

      Yes, a brilliant cast of real actors rather than ‘stars.’ 1984. Geraldine Page is a must in everything.

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Geraldine Page received an Oscar nomination in spite of only appearing for 8 minutes in the movie. She not only delivered on the dialog but also added little nuances like working the cigarette and rosary simultaneously. A great actress who got the most out of what she had to work with.

        • Davids says:

          That is true, even in Aldrich’s “Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?” Page is convincing rather being grotesque as Davis may have played the role. Page, pushing Paul Newman aside, while enthralled with a phone call, in “Sweet Bird of Youth” is a favorite and “The Trip to Bountiful” breaks your heart with every viewing.

          • Davids, you sound like a movie buff? You’re a fine judge of acting and I think you would have made a great movie critic. Of the 3 films you mentioned, I did not see “Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?” I’ll have to check it out.

            p.s. I forgot to include a glass of wine that Geraldine Page was drinking in “The Pope of Greenwich Village”. She had her hands full: cigarette, rosary, wine and still managed to chastise the detectives questioning her. She delivered her lines in a rich Bronx accent. Beautiful bit of acting.

            • Davids says:

              You’d be right there. Ha ha Autodidact, from early childhood, then a dream job within the film industry after completing college. The thrill of taking home 16 mm films to watch over the weekend with friends was just fabulous. Even better, you had knowledgeable people advising you on what to read and watch.

              • Dewey Hebert says:

                Good for you, Davids, we should all be so lucky to have a dream job doing something we’re passionate about.

                BTW, St. Mark’s Basilica has made it to the top. He’s ranked No. 1 in the World. What’s next on his dance card?

  14. John Goggin says:

    Outstanding historical perspective on this New Jersey race track….here’s hoping for bright future and not failure that plagued Garden State and Atlantic City.
    Q….wasn’t Monmouth Park the race track used in the movie The Pope of Greenwich Village with both Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts cheering on their horse?

  15. Fernando says:

    Wow, que hermosa historia Steve..!! que bueno es leerte. Conoci Monmount Park, en la Breeder’s Cup 2007..magnifico hipodromo,
    alli vi ganar a Curlin en pista pesada, Saludos y gracias…

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Translation — what a beautiful story Steve .. !! how good it is to read you. I met Monmouth Park, in the Breeder’s Cup 2007..magnificent racecourse,there I saw Curlin win on heavy track, Greetings and thank you …

      Thank you Fernando. I wish you could have seen the real beauty of Monmouth. That was such an ugly day.

  16. Jackie Kennedy says:

    Learned a lot of history and loved the stories. You are a fabulous historian writer.

  17. Dewey Hebert says:

    Yet another outstanding example of great story telling. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of the exciting matchup of the three prominent 3 yo colts of 1987. I’ll bet that crowd rocked the rafters with wild cheering for that exciting stretch run. Nevertheless, if you can’t witness it live, just read Steve Haskin’s account to experience the feeling of being on site. It works for me.
    I also enjoyed reading about the history of Monmouth Park, particularly the impact that Avery Haskell had on rebuilding Monmouth into one of the best facilities for both horses and horsemen, as well as state of the art technical developments and convenience and comfort for the fans. It was gratifying to learn that Mr. Haskell put such an emphasis on backstretch safety for the horses and good living conditions for the stable hands caring for them. It is fitting that the track’s signature race is named in his honor.
    Great stuff, Steve. Looking forward to this year’s Haskell.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks very much, Dewey. I appreciate it. sometimes its hard to tell if people are interested in the historical stuff

  18. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this great piece of Racing History. Your article will be etched in the history book of Monmouth.

    The illustrations are very captivating additions…!

    Alysheba, Bet Twice and Lost Code belonged to a magnificent crop that included brilliant horses like Cryptoclearance, Gulch, Temperate Sil and the unlucky Demons Begone.

    Alysheba ended his career with a Horse of a Year performance in the Breeder’s Cup Classic the same day Bet Twice finished 8th in the Breeder’s Cup Mile won by the immortal Miesque.

    Alysheba kind of inherited the “rivalry gene” from his sire Alydar. Alysheba and Bet Twice faced each other nine times with the Champ finishing in front of Bet Twice five times. Below is the summary of this memorable rivalry.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Forgot to mention Java Gold and Polish Navy in one of the greatest generation of Thoroughbreds ever in USA…!

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Thanks very much, Nelson and for the rundown on their rivalry. I’m glad you mentioned the illustrations. Leonard does an awesome job illustrating all my columns and I’m happy someone finally mentioned it. That was such a great crop, that actually was maligned during the Triple Crown because the Derby was slow. I’m going to add Gone West and Afleet. And Capote was a brilliant 2-year-old

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Oh Yes ! Gone West and the Canadian Afleet (the 1987 Sovereign Award Horse of the Year and Sovereign Award 1987 Champion 3 Year Old) were two accomplished members of that class as well…

          Champion Capote was a casualty of the Derby Fever … Lukas has publicly admitted that it was a mistake to enter the son of Seattle Slew in the Derby …!

          Seems unlikely to witness another “magnificent dozen” in the future…

  19. Nelson Maan says:

    Race Alysheba finish Bet Twice finish
    Meadowlands Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) 1 4
    Philip H. Iselin Handicap (Gr. 1) 1 2
    Pimlico Special Handicap 4 1
    Travers Stakes (Gr. 1) 6 5
    Haskell Invitational Handicap (Gr. 1) 2 1
    Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1) 4 1
    Preakness Stakes (Gr. 1) 1 2
    Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1) 1 2
    Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (Gr. 1) 3 4

    • EddieF says:

      Nelson, thanks for the summary. The Travers sure does stick out like a sore thumb. Sloppy track, right?

      • Steve Haskin says:

        So many good horses floundered on that track. It was a mess.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Yes Eddie… if Alysheba was able to go on and win seven Grade 1 races after finishing 20 lengths behind Java Gold in the Travers one can only conclude that he did not like mud hitting his face at all. Same could be said about Bet Twice …

  20. Marc Mink says:

    Loved this story… i forgot how big a deal this was at the time as well..Thanks once again for knowing just what past events will ring out even many years later!!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you, Marc. I just hope that the stories I find memorable will interest other people. Some work better than others. As long as I keep enjoying writing them and reliving those days I’ll keep writing them.

      • Marc Mink says:

        Steve it wasnt the gambling that hooked me .. it was being able to see these horses as athletes who loved to run.. that has not changed and for those that have not discovered this about the thoroughbreds, they are missing the best part of it all. I agree the aspect of being the only legal gambling outside of Nevada helped establish horse racing as a huge public draw for many years, but the romance of it goes back close to two hundred fifty years..the “Sport of Kings” was that because it was a way for the elite to compete with each other where there was no guarantee.. their successes were based on what was on four legs both breeding and heart and luck…really can you name another athletic endeavor where the public’s admiration is so complete as the case is with these wonderful animals? Through high school, military service, counter culture and long term business.. a lot changed for me over the years but not this

  21. Jo Anne says:

    Steve,

    Great history lesson on Monmouth. Looks like it’s shaping up to be a fun race.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      A lot will depend on whether Rombauer goes. No Medina Spirit and obviously no Essential Quality. Right now its Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun, and Midnight Bourbon as thee big names from the Triple Crown. But they need one of the winners and Rombauer is their only hope. I’d love to see Weyburn run as well.

  22. EddieF says:

    Many thanks for another beautifully told story. I’ve been to Monmouth only twice; nevertheless, it’s one of my favorite tracks.

    How you’re able to weave so much fascinating information into a cohesive and riveting column is beyond me. The history of the track, the innovations, blood stains on the walls of Lost Code’s stall, the Alysheba-Bet Twice rivalry and how the two colts hollered at each other….Loved it!

    P.S. So the race wasn’t named for Eddie Haskell! That’s just a bit disappointing.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Eddie, I really appreciate that. I wish it was named after Eddie Haskell. Monmouth didnt want anyone thinking it was so they called it the Haskell Invitational knowing Eddie Haskell was never invited anywhere. I covered 28 Haskells for Thoroughbred Times, DRF. and Bloodhorse. I hated when they ran it for years on a Sunday. I had to hang around for the press conference, fight traffic going home, getting home at 9 oclock, have dinner, and then have to write my recap which was due first thing Monday morning. That I dont miss.

  23. Steve Haskin says:

    In case anyone is not aware of it, on all my columns if you click on a photo it will produce an enlarged version.