A Haskell to Remember… In Many Ways

There are so many elements that made up this year’s Haskell Invitational, including the hot topic of the Monmouth whip rule. You won’t find much about that here. This is about the horses involved, especially one who has gotten overlooked. ~ Steve Haskin

A Haskell to Remember… In Many Ways

By Steve Haskin

Sometimes the spirit and the true essence of the Thoroughbred are manifested in unusual ways. They don’t necessarily have to be displayed in victory or even narrow defeat. In the case of the 2021 Haskell Invitational, many of the elements that stamp the Thoroughbred were played out in the stretch run of Monmouth Park’s premier event.

Those elements, especially one, may have gotten lost amidst the social media backlash from the near-tragic accident that occurred inside the eighth pole and the vilification of Monmouth’s controversial whip rule.

The Haskell was running true to form when the three standouts – Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun, and Midnight Bourbon – hooked up turning for home. But then came every racegoer’s nightmare. In a flash, Midnight Bourbon appeared to fall to the ground, his legs giving out as if he had suffered a catastrophic injury. Many of those watching on TV immediately turned away, unable to look. Jockey Paco Lopez lay motionless on the track almost in a fetal position as the ambulance rushed to him. The battle between between Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun seemed almost insignificant as most people cringed in disgust. Racing seemingly had suffered a serious wound on national TV from which it might not recover.

But we all know what happened after that. The first sigh of relief came when Midnight Bourbon was seen running free and in no apparent distress. How did that happen when most people were convinced he had fallen and suffered a possible life-threatening injury? But it happened so quickly and so many people had turned away they didn’t realize that somehow the horse never went down and that he in all likelihood clipped the heels of Hot Rod Charlie.

After that it was all about the condition of Lopez and then the actual finish of the race, in which Hot Rod Charlie narrowly prevailed after a heated stretch duel. With the connections of Hot Rod Charlie still celebrating, the inquiry sign went up and it took only a brief look for the stewards to disqualify Hot Rod Charlie for drifting in right in front of Midnight Bourbon, causing him to clip heels.

Then came the backlash. What if Hot Rod Charlie’s jockey Flavien Prat had been permitted to use his crop even just once left-handed to try to straighten out his mount? The outcry went viral, but of course we will never know what would have happened and each person has his or her own feelings about the rule.

We could go into the rule discussing its flaws and whether or not it contributed to the incident or which jockey if any was at fault. Would Hot Rod Charlie have drifted if trainer Doug O’Neill hadn’t removed his blinkers? Everything has two sides and people will make their case either way. But that is not what this column is about. Midnight Bourbon is fine, Paco Lopez is fine, and we witnessed two courageous horses giving their all, as they have all year.

This column is about the Thoroughbred and what we saw exhibited in the stretch of the Haskell. We already knew that Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun were warriors who never backed away from a fight. And they took their fight all the way to the wire, leaning on each other with both jockeys pushing hard with all their strength and Prat going to several crosses on Hot Rod Charlie.

But we have seen that before. That is what top-class Thoroughbreds are supposed to do in the heat of battle. What we hardly ever see is what Midnight Bourbon did that very well may saved this from being a catastrophe. There is nothing as dangerous as a fallen horse with other horses directly behind running 40 miles an hour and having to somehow avoid the horse on the ground. The reason many believed Midnight Bourbon had fallen is that he pretty much was on the ground. All four legs had crumbled in a heap and he had nothing from which he could push off to get back on his feet. When a horse is running that fast and suddenly clips heels and heads to the ground it has to be a frightening experience, and all he has is his survival instinct, his strength, and a rare athleticism to avoid falling and endangering himself, his rider, and the horses behind him. Midnight Bourbon exhibited all three and somehow was able to pick himself off the ground and get back on his feet. But in doing so, his rider, unlike Jeremy Rose on Afleet Alex in that amazing 2005 Preakness, went flying off the side of his neck landing in front of him.

Once again, the element that makes the Thoroughbred such a remarkable athlete took over. Lopez crouched in the fetal position for protection, found himself under Midnight Bourbon, who had both foreleg legs in front of Lopez and both back legs behind, and those back legs had to go somewhere. Still running at a good speed and no doubt shaken, the colt was able to angle his body slightly to the side and then lift his legs over the fallen jockey. Had he not made the effort to lift his legs they no doubt would have come down hard on Lopez.

Some may feel is was overstating the incident and perhaps anthropomorphizing Midnight Bourbon’s actions in regard to saving his rider from serious injury, as horses will naturally try to avoid objects in their path. But they are not always able to. I am merely looking at the results and the remarkable athleticism it took for the colt to pick himself up off the ground and then avoid hitting Lopez, all in a matter of seconds. And no doubt in a frightened state. As courageous as Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun were, I believe Midnight Bourbon is the unsung hero the 2021 Haskell, and what he did is what we will remember most about the race and certainly what I will remember most about the colt, more than his victories and his narrow defeats in major races.

No one can say this hasn’t been an interesting and entertaining crop of 3-year-olds, who have exhibited their courage under fire on numerous occasions. We saw it with Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie in the Robert Lewis Stakes. We saw it with Essential Quality and Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes. We saw it with Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, and Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby. We saw with Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes. We saw it with Mandaloun and Weyburn in the Pegasus Stakes and earlier in the year with Weyburn and Crowded Trade in the Gotham, as well as Helium’s gutsy comeback in the Tampa Bay Derby. And now we see it with Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun in the Haskell.

Is it possible that at some point Mandaloun is going to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Haskell without having finished first in either race and not even being affected by the infractions that gave him both victories? How odd was it to see Following Sea on his way to staggering home in fourth, beaten well over 20 lengths, in the Haskell wind up finishing second?

As for this crop, let’s remember that the Kentucky Derby was the fastest running in the past 20 years (excluding last year when it was run in September). The Belmont Stakes was the second fastest running in the past 20 years. The Preakness, won by Rombauer, was the second fastest running (excluding last year when it was run in October) in the past 20 years, So in the past two decades the only two horses to have run faster in Triple Crown races than this year’s three winners are American Pharoah and Curlin.

As for the Haskell, it was the second-fastest running in the past 34 years. Only the great Rachel Alexandra has run faster.

While Essential Quality is atop all the polls as the leading 3-year-old, that could change in the Travers, and there are many who believe Hot Rod Charlie ran the best race in the Belmont, setting Secretariat-like fractions of :22 3/5 and :46 2/5 under pressure the whole way and still only getting beat 1 ¼ lengths by Essential Quality, while finishing 11 ¼ lengths ahead of Rombauer in third. But then again there are many who felt Essential Quality ran the best race in the Derby, having to race very wide every step of the way. It could all prove moot in the Travers when most everyone from the Derby trail will converge on Saratoga’s Midsummer Derby, although Hot Rod Charlie likely will go in the Pacific Classic. And there is the unbeaten Curlin colt First Captain, winner of the Dwyer Stakes, who is headed to the Curlin Stakes and then the Travers. And we still have to wait and see what’s happening with Life is Good, who looked like the clear-cut leader of the division before being sidelined.

So on we go to the Travers to see who emerges as the leading 3-year-old. No matter who is victorious I still will remember Midnight Bourbon and will continue to marvel at what he did in the Haskell and the disaster he may have prevented. On that day, he was a true Thoroughbred.

Photos by Peter Ackerman, courtesy of MSN


Signup for the newsletter For new announcements, merchandise updates and other excitement here at, please enter your email address in the popup window. Our mailing list is never sold or viewed by anyone other than

Leave a Reply to SoloSolo

174 Responses to “A Haskell to Remember… In Many Ways”

  1. Blake D Neely says:

    We have enjoyed a good crop of three year olds. Very interesting races and great competition.Looking forward to more. Also looking forward to your coverage. Thanks for a reminder that all winners do not come in first. Blake Neely

  2. Steve Haskin says:

    Next column to be posted tomorrow morning

    • EddieF says:


      • JC says:

        Looking forward to next column….
        Turf stakes thoughts… Rock Your World back on Grass,,,,will they choose Del Mar Derby-G2 or La Jolla Handicap-G3. And is any horse a threat in these races… long as Rock has the right Jokey. Still sour on jockey change for Derby and beyond. Don’t expect a comment on last thought about jokey… but I’m sure you still look at Rock….. what will he do back on grass…. dominate ? We shall see soon… Got to love that pre Derby fever looking back at Rock.

  3. Matthew W says:

    When it’s all said and done….the 2021 Breeders Cup Juvenile is going to be one heckuva key race….Essential Quality…Hot Rod Charlie….Jackie’s Warrior….Keepmeinmind…..Rombauer…..King Fury…..Classier…..

    • pro vet says:

      or……the classsic?………again…….the 98 is horrible……..H O R R I B L E………..THESE horses should be running 108 at least…….its Aug……..3 yr old year……..2 yr olds run 98……..this horse did in juvy……..he should be much much faster

      • EddieF says:

        You have a bad case of Beyeritis. Who cares what EQs BSF was in a prep? Arrogate had a 99 in his Travers prep, then hit 122 in the Travers. Catholic Boy had a highest BSF of 99 before his 104 in the Travers. Code of Honor matched his career high of 97 in the Travers prep, then a 105 in the Travers. I could go on…. For all your talk about BSFs, you don’t seem to know how to interpret them or put them in their proper context.

      • Mike Relva says:

        As the great Jack Van Berg stated, “time only matters if you’re doing it”. I’m not into numbers or silly polls.

      • Matthew W says:

        I wonder about Beyers….I remember Best Pal used to get 110’s and higher all the time …and I wonder if those numbers are harder to get today. .1:47 1/5 Haskell was, what…100? So…they need to go 1:46 now……1:49 2/5 Friday, track was tiring ….maybe they were all on steroids before? ….Thought the Jim Dandy was not very Dandy, but the horse probably would be unbeaten, thought he was best on Derby.

      • Matthew W says:

        Detby, Preakness, Haskell, Belmont ALL among fastest in DECADES…..Beyers near 100 for all but the Belmont… it the horses….or is it the Beyers?

        • EddieF says:

          I think that the speed figure formula was readjusted at some point after 2008. If you look at the Beyers for Derby winners, the numbers dropped significantly after Big Brown’s win. If the breed was getting weaker, there would be a GRADUAL decline in figures.

  4. Matthew W says:

    Brad Cox seems to be keeping his two big three year olds apart…..I wonder if he might try older, in the Pacific Classic—with Mandaloun? It makes sense, and the timing seems right— The Pennsylvania Derby looks like Hot Rod Charlie is coming, maybe Cox will give Del Mar a try—

  5. JC says:

    Hey Steve….been out of the loop since Derby and loss of a $400 Future wager on Rock that would have paid big…didn’t happen. As we all know…lol. I was sold on Rock and now he looks like he’s returning in a Stakes Turf race….hopefully he get his jockey back…Umberto Rispoli. Not giving up on this horse. Photos of him at the track… he’s a machine. Can’t wait to see him again when he’s happy.

  6. Discopartner says:

    Today in the Jim Dandy, Essential Quality made a move forward at the top of the stretch that was very similar to Hot Rod C’s move in the Haskell, at that same point in the stretch. He passed a horse as he was moving in toward his lane, only he did it without clipping heals and causing another horse to fall! Wonder of wonders, it can be done! And is done every day! And he passed Weyburn without getting a whip for steering either. Nor did Weburn need steering with a whip. I’ve never before seen a horse go down, not in a crowd, but just being passed, as Midnight Bourbon was. It should really draw a large fine.

  7. SoloSolo says:

    Steve, were your ears burning? Some very nice comments, and well deserved, about you and the Derby Dozen over on HRC. (Curlin Stakes article and comments) Your comments are a fine tribute to Bernardini.

  8. Mike Relva says:

    Called the farm few minutes ago. What a gut punch!

  9. Betsy says:

    Good morning !

    Steve, if you get a chance, I’d love to hear your remembrances of Bernardini, who passed away today at 18. I’m devastated and heartbroken. He was a phenomenal racehorse (and ran an under appreciated race in BC Classic), a fine sire and a spectacular broodmare sire. I saw photos today where he looked the image of Slew. I hoped he’d live a long life like Slew and Indy, but he apparently took after Secretariat in this way.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      When I was at the 2005 Breeders’ Cup, I was at the gap when Tom Albertrani came by on his pony. Stevie Wonderboy was the big favorite for the Juvenile and looked like a star in the making. Tom was one of the most low-eyed people I knew, so when he said to me, “I have the best 2-year-old in the country,” I was startled and replied, “You cant say that and leave it at that. Who is he?” He said “I’m not saying because he hasnt run yet.” Tom had a horse who hadnt run yet and tells me he has the best 2-year-old in the country? I kept after him, Who was this mystery sensation? But he kept telling me, “You’ll know him when you see him.” When I was at Gulfstream the following winter with my wife, I watched a colt trained by Tom work and as he went by us he blew me away. I turned to my wife and said, “Wow, that has to be the colt Tom told me about.” It was Bernardini, and I knew right then he was special. It was a no-brainer when he broke his maiden and I knew Barbaro would have to run his eyeballs out to beat him in the Preakness even though it was only Bernardini’s third career start. I covered all his races and although he didnt have a shred of white on him you could spot him 100 yards away. He had a presence about him that was rare. No other horse looked like him. He was spectacular to look at and a very special horse. He took your breath away, How terribly ironic both he and Barbaro would succumb to Laminitis.

      • Betsy says:

        Steve, what a wonderful story…thanks so much for sharing. I know that many horses are morning glories, but sometimes there are horses you just know will be good; to then see their careers play out the way you hope must be a wonderful feeling. Bernardini and Barbaro might have had a special rivalry – I like to think they are running those races in Horsey Heaven…

        It always feels like a bit of my youth is gone when a favorite racehorse passes…

        At the Spa today, a filly by the name of Laoban’s Prayer son easily. She’s by Laoban out of a Bernardini mare – how bittersweet.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I saw the race. She looked great. Enjoy your visit

        • Jiffy says:

          Of all the races that never happened, Bernardini and a sound Barbaro in the Preakness is one I would love to have seen. Whoever won, it would have been memorable.

          A few weeks ago when John Rotz and Bert Firestone died, someone here observed that this has been a sad year for racing. Bernardini’s passing adds to that sadness.

      • Mike Relva says:

        Called the farm few minutes ago. What a gut punch!

      • Davids says:

        Very apt description of Bernardini, Steve. Bernardini was like a sculpture, when he moved you were in the presence of exquisite beauty. Sad news. What a pity he never ran as a 4 year old, you can only imagine.

    • Davids says:

      Betsy, let’s hope that Art Collector can grab an elusive Grade 1 win this year. On a happier note, I was thinking of you when Maracuja triumphed in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

      • Betsy says:

        David, I’d love to see it – though I’m skeptical of him at this point because he’s been so bad in his last 3 races.

        Oh my god, I’m still on cloud 9! I truly believed she’d run well – she’s improved all along – but I would have been very happy with a good performance. That was a crazy, incredible race – Malathaat deserves a ton of credit, but Mara does, too. She also ran differently than her usual style – I think Atras wanted to see if she could show some more speed instead of being this deep closer. In the 4 horse field, she had to be very close; Santana gave her a brilliant ride, but if the filly hadn’t been willing, it wouldn’t have worked. The fact she made 2 moves was so impressive to me. The Alabama should be a fun race !

        • Davids says:

          Maracuja’s win was just what Honor Code needed to boost his stocks at the right time. I sensed an upset possibility but when it’s that close your energy is totally drained getting the horse up. Wasn’t it fun though!!

          • Betsy says:

            Well he’s had a really good few weeks: Max Player, a new SW in Core Values, a promising baby named Dance Code (who ran a remarkable race in the Sanford – check out his terrible stumble at the start), another promising baby named Informal, and a spate of winners. However, another top level win is always welcomed ! Mara’s win was exhilarating, LOL that’s so true ! I thought she would get up, but you never know… There’s nothing like a great stretch duel for drama and excitement, and when you come out on top, it’s definitely fun!

            • Davids says:

              Max Player would have a reasonably good chance of upsetting in either the Whitney or Woodward Stakes, the latter more likely though.

  10. Davids says:

    Steve, the mind’s eye travels to Glorious Goodwood this Wednesday to watch another running of the prestigious Sussox (sic) Stakes. Alas, rain has been forecast but hopefully, not too much. Snow Lantern takes on Poetic Flare in a battle of the milers. I can’t see the filly overhauling Jim Bolger’s colt but it would be fun if she could. I want them both to win. Enjoy the festival.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thats one track I always wanted to go to. but I was never there in the summer.

      • Davids says:

        For me, Goodwood has a fun, holiday ‘country fair’ feel about it. Summertime, and the living is easy. Personally, I prefer being at the track when/where there is quite a lot of tension around – this is serious.

      • Davids says:

        Oisin Murphy”s ‘magic’ was the difference in the Sussox (sic) Stakes with Alcohol Free. None of the first three runners appeared to relish the undulating Goodwood track.

  11. Davids says:

    Steve, Glorious Goodwood this Wednesday, for another running of the prestigious Sussex Stakes. Alas, rain has been forecast but hopefully, not too much.

    Snow Lantern takes on Poetic Flare in a triumph of the milers. I can’t see the filly overhauling Jim Bolger’s colt but it would be fun if she could. I want them both to win. Enjoy the festival.

  12. Davids says:

    Steve, the mind’s eye travels to Glorious Goodwood this Wednesday to watch another running of the prestigious Sussex Stakes. Alas, rain has been forecast but hopefully, not too much. Snow Lantern takes on Poetic Flare in a battle of the milers. I can’t see the filly overhauling Jim Bolger’s colt but it would be fun if she could. I want them both to win. Enjoy the festival.

  13. SoloSolo says:

    Steve, this is totally off topic—I was looking at the Sire list on BH and wonder why Big Brown has done so poorly as a sire. I recall you thought highly of him when he was competing. At that time I thought of him as a threat to my favorite Curlin, but it never materialized. I’m glad to read your wonderful article on Midnight Bourban— what a warrior!

    • Coldfacts says:

      The Northern Dancer sire line has not bee overly successful in the US.. Hard Spun is probably the best since his sire Danzig.
      Big Browns trainer confirmed that he used steroids’ in his race up to the Belmont. Performance enhancer can make users
      appear better than they are.

      Bayern won the PA Derby in a NTR of 1:46.96. He also won the BCC in 1:59.88. In his next 5 start he finished 6th, 10th 3rd,
      9th & 3rd. He was subsequently retired. Given Bayer speed up to 10F. He should be producing classic type progenies. I \wouldn’t
      hold mu breath for one of his classic type progenies.

      Given the powerful enhancers that are used in the US. The true ability of some horses in unlikely to be known. There failure
      as stallions shouldn’t surprise.

      • Davids says:

        You can hardly ignore Storm Cat and Awesome Again, and their sons, to name just two prominent Northern Dancer line sires who have been extremely influential in the US.

        • Profsdottir says:

          Two influential sires, as was Dixieland Band, who sired Dixie Union, who in turn sired Union Rags. All of them excelled on the track and in the shed.

          • Davids says:

            Exactly!! I was going to mention the obvious, Into Mischief, as well but left that opening for the author to correct his misguided belief.

        • perimeister says:

          It’s good to know I can drop in occasionally and still find you and the others here. I was recently thinking how much I have been learning, listening to the Mig, for which your recommendation is entirely responsible, and wanted to thank you. So, thank you.

      • SoloSolo says:

        Thanks for thoughtful reply, Coldfacts.

      • perimeister says:

        Bayern is quietly doing quite well on objective measures of sire success for his crop, with a smaller book than those of the more fashionable sires. There isn’t an overabundance of Nearctic/Icecapade’s sire line descendants, and I’m looking forward to seeing Bayern mares crossed with AP Indy line stallions.

        • Davids says:

          Bayern has a prominent female family line so it’s up to him. I tried a few hypothetical crosses you mentioned above with F as a result but it’s way too early as a predictor.

          • perimeister says:

            You may not have intuited that one of my dearest hopes is to see Honor Code get more mares with lines like Hollywood Story’s. There aren’t many Wild Rush mares in this part of the world.
            Would I be wrong to imagine that you haven’t been spending as much of your time keeping up with his get as some others have done? If not, let me mention that there’s a two year old, Code Clear, who has that same long, loose stride as Honor AP, and similar coat snd markings. Whether that coat is hiding similar speed potential, it’s too soon to tell.

            • Davids says:

              Honor Code is one of the most charismatic colts ever and is stamping his get so the future should be fine. Something an Australian breeder told me, which has stuck, is that “colts that have a racing style of coming from behind are not the most dynamic of stallions.” Wives’ tales?

              Honor A.P. may pass on more brilliance than his sire.

              • Mike Relva says:

                Good points regarding Honor AP.

              • perimeister says:

                Yes, I think it’s a myth that the come-from-behind style has a causal connection to the “dynamism” of the horse as a sire.

                Honor Code was unexpectedly overwhelmingly throwing stamina, accordingly his book was adjusted after his first two crops and trainers have adjusted their early methods, so from this year forward we should see a difference.

                • Davids says:

                  Coolmore are extremely proficient (ruthless, really) in providing their new sires with ever chance to succeed. Speedy, precocious type mares are in plentiful supply early on. It’s worked for them over the years and they seldom let go of a sire that blooms elsewhere.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      It is all so unpredictable. Going back to Calumet, Citation and Whirlaway were very disappointing as sires, as were Spectacular Bid, Point Given, Skip Away, Smarty Jones, California Chrome (up to now) and a number of other Hall of Famers. You just dont know.

      • SoloSolo says:

        You got that right. I don’t recall Into Mischief being a barn burner as a racehorse, but look at him now.

  14. Matthew W says:

    Am listening to three racing shows that come on Sat….lots of “experts” think Prat moved horse towards Mandaloun, to show him his rival—-and he misjudges how far in front of Midnight Bourbon—the thing is, Hot Rod is a battler, and he wasn’t wearing his blinkers, the horse might have done that—that is my belief.

  15. Melissa P says:

    I still can’t watch the replay of the race – even knowing that everyone (horse & rider) came out of it in good order. I’m so glad you focused this post on the strength & athleticism of these amazing athletes. Midnight Bourbon has been a favorite ever since I first saw him. Hard to find a better looking horse, but he has this air of strength and has shown he can somehow keep from hurting himself even when frightened. (I remember the incident prior to the Derby very well.) There will always be those who will be negative about the crop, the jockeys, the race, the rules, etc. I’m so grateful we have Steve Haskin to shine the light where it truly belongs – on the beauty and majesty of the animals and the sport we love.

  16. Coldfacts says:

    “What if Hot Rod Charlie’s jockey Flavien Prat had been permitted to use his crop even just once left-handed to try to straighten out his mount?”

    What if scenarios are always plentiful. Many opponents of revised crop rules implemented at Monmouth Park were just awaiting an incident like the one that occurred in the Haskell, to support the narrative that the revised rule were ill-conceived. Does Hot Rod Charlie/ Midnight Bourbon incident supports this narrative?

    In 2019 the KD, Maximum Security was disqualified for an infarction resulting from lane change violation. The crop rules similar to those for the 2021 Monmouth Park meet do not exist Churchill Downs. Mt Saez therefore had the option to use his crop to effect a course correction.

    The incident that occurred in the 2005 Preakness has been referenced due to the similarity in the athleticism displayed by the impacted entrants. There were no Monmouth Park crop rules in effect at Pimlico. Mr. Dominduez the rider of Scrappy T, therefore had the option to use his crop to effect a course correction. Although entering or exiting turns make course corrections more challenging

    The incidents in the 2019 KD and 2005 Preakness occurred despite the jockeys having unrestricted use of the crop. These incidents can be used as examples to dismiss the narrative that if Mr. Pratt, had unrestricted use of his crop. He could have been able to effect a course correction thus preventing the incident.

    These incident will occur either with or without crop restrictions. It’s a matter of occurrence time. The speed with which horses can change course will in most cases supersedes the response time of their riders.

    Did HRC suddenly change course in the stretch of the Haskell? Not form the head on video. His drifting in was more gradual than sudden. Mr. Prat had time to course correct without the use of a whip. It appear he assumed he had cleared Midnight Bourbon and was focussed on repelling Mandaloun’s challenge.

    Monmouth Park must be applauded for the revised crop rule usage. Horsemanship seems to have taken a back seat to crop usage. Not all riders have the same skill sets. Those that are deficient should work on their craft. The injudicious use of the crop must end.

    I applauded the tracks that have disallowed Lasix in TC races and graded stakes. A video of KD entrants being injected with Lasix hours before the race would have caused worldwide outrage.

    There should never be acceptance where there should be disgust.

    • Matthew W says:

      You and I saw different races….Hot Rod leaned in….then moved over quick, nothing gradual about it….my guess is he saw Mandaloun and is a battle, some horses— when they see a challenge move over and get alongside.

      • Matthew W says:

        Also you theorize about Prat, and thats all it is, a theory—–I have had the good fortune of watching Prat weekly doing his thing…..when he comes around horses like he did at Monmouth, he uses a left hand stick ( really a foam popper), to keep a closer from moving in, as closers usually do… it perfectly logical to believe Prat would have employed said tactic, but even still…I think the blinkers off had as much or more to do with his wandering, and I expect he will be refitted with them in his next start.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I dont understand the removal of blinkers. And I dont see what Prat did wrong.

          • Davids says:

            Steve, that puzzled me as well. I was\am miffed on what Prat could have done to prevent the unfortunate accident. Moreover, anyone who is accustomed of the French steward’s judgments would be acutely aware of the most minuscule of infractions.

          • Matthew W says:

            The Hollywood Turf Invitational was an important race, supported by the visionary Marg Everett—before the race, there was a special classified allowance drawn up, and in that prep— the great Dahlia fended off the good stayer Caucasus, with grit…determination…and oh, yeah, she bit her rival, and won by 1/2 length…..then in the Invitational, Shoe made an early backstretch move to the lead, and when Caucasus came closing, at the 1/8 pole….he hung alongside the great mare, because battles do battle, Hot Rod is a battle, too.

    • pro vet says:

      What if… had a brain that worked?…..what if……you had a personality that wasn’t CONTRARIAN…….what if… actually loved a horse…….in 17 years of great horses… have not loved one……not one…..every one was over rated…..this is true….

  17. Nelson Maan says:

    Spectacular photos depicting the strength and flexibility of Midnight Bourbon. Steve, You and your team are to be commended for all these nicely crafted articles at The unique angle of this reportage reflects the philosophy of this website.

    Amazing how the imposing son of Tiznow showed the instinct to protect the fallen Paco Lopez. Also, the Jockey was inches away from being hit by Following Sea coming from behind … all within microseconds to react.

    The good news is that Midnight Bourbon appears to be in good shape mentally and physically. However, we should still wait for his next race to know if there was any repercussion of the incident.

    I would love to see him in the Travers displaying his customary grit there and in the rest of the season … that would be a true happy ending.

    At fascinating Saratoga we will likely see Weyburn and First Captain facing Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy the last day of July. This would be a nice preamble for the Travers to be held on August 28.

    The Midsummer Derby (even without Hot Rod Charlie) is bound to be a crucial race to decide the 3-year-old Championship.
    I am partial to the Champ Essential Quality defeating the brilliant Mandaloun in the Travers and getting even after his only defeat in the Derby. I would love to see the son of Tapit, like other great horses of the past, cinching the championship title despite losing the Derby as a favorite. Native Dancer, Nashua, Damascus, Holy Bull, Point Given and Afleet Alex come to mind …!

    The highly touted Life is Good, with only three easy breezes at Keeneland in the last month, is more likely to retake a top- Stakes route by September or November… we will see !

    I also share the feeling that Midnight Bourbon embodies all the virtues of a true Equine Athlete… a four-year-old campaign might see him reaching his full potential just like Gun Runner did.

  18. Coldfacts says:

    A few comments on points that captured my attention.

    “Once again, the element that makes the Thoroughbred such a remarkable athlete took over.”

    I totally agree that the athleticism displayed by Midnight Bourbon was remarkable for a colt his size. And
    it did appear from the head on that he tried to avoid stepping on his rider despite the rider being out of view..

    “The Belmont Stakes was the second fastest running in the past 20 years.”

    I was about to make the above error in a post elsewhere. But I checked ahead and realized that in 2020 the Belmont was contested over 9F. The last 20 renewals of the Belmont over 10F would have included Point Given victory completed in 2:26.56. If my research is correct. Essential Quality’s winning time ranks 3rd fastest in the last 20 renewal over 10F.

    “there are many who believe Hot Rod Charlie ran the best race in the Belmont”

    I concur that this is indeed a popular view. But being a simplistic individual, this popular sentiment has left me confused.
    If the runner up ran the best race of all entrants. How should the winner’s performance be describe? Better than the best! A horse can run its best race and it proves to be not good enough to win. Why? There was an opponent better on the day.

    What’s the value of making this indefensible point? It has to be viewed as an attempt to diminish the the performance of the winner A prime example involves Zenyatta/Blame in the 2010 BCC.

    This above statement is similar to another that should be viewed as a waste of words/key strokes. ‘He is the deserving ML favorite.’ There are no benefits to be derived from being listed as the ML favorite. Consequently, highligting same is meaningless. There are certainly more flattering comments that can be made about an anticipated post time favorite.

    “Following Sea on his way to staggering home in fourth, beaten well over 20 lengths”

    What was the betting public thinking that resulted in this colt leaving the gates at 5/2? A examination of list of past winner
    of the Haskell would have revealed that Following Sea’s profile wasn’t’ a match. A last out allowance winner of the Haskell
    cannot be found. Further, jumping from 6 1/2F to 9F against three of the top colts in the division was more than being
    thrown into the deep end of the pool. The transfer of the colt from one chemical lab to another was likely to result in an eventual sub-par performance due to a clash of chemicals.

    Trainers are not miracle workers despite their records. The cold facts featured in Following Sea’s profile gave no indications he was likely to emerge the winner of the Haskell. Just as profile of Known Agenda indicated he was unlikely to hit the board in the KD. Two bad defeats in successive graded stakes, followed by dropping down to the Allowance for his 1st win as a 3YO was a unique feature of the colt’s PP.

    • Mike Relva says:

      Agree with your comments recently regarding Pletcher. Spot on!

    • EddieF says:

      “…in the past 20 years” means “in the past 20 years.” The statement is accurate. Racing fans know that the ’19 Belmont was not run at 10f. So yours is a meaningless objection.

      “There are no benefits to be derived from being listed as the ML favorite. Consequently, highligting same is meaningless.” When people say that a horse is a deserving ML favorite, they aren’t referring to BENEFITS derived from being the ML favorite. They are simply stating that they believe that horse should be the betting favorite. That’s all.

      I agree that the Haskell betting was strange. But Following Sea went off at 7-2, not 5-2. Regardless, he shouldn’t have been anywhere near Mandaloun’s odds. FS’s absurd morning-line odds (3-1) may have had an impact on post-time odds. Oh…is that the benefit to which you were referring? 🙂

      If you have any evidence about chemicals in FS’s system, please let the racing officials in NJ know!

      Is a reply forthcoming?

    • pro vet says:

      after the race………..

  19. Robert J Mack says:

    They have no problem showing replays when it’s “only” the rider that is down. Add that to your rant on TV and racing.