To say that the card for UFC 245 is loaded would be an understatement. A trio of world title belts will be on the line on Dec. 14 at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada. Kamaru Usman will defend his welterweight title, in the headliner bout while Max Holloway puts his featherweight belt on the line in the co-main event. Women's bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes also is defending her world title.
2018 Haskell Invitational Picks
Haskell Invitational Stakes Preview and Odds
Twice on the Triple Crown trail, 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic took his best shot at Justify and came up short, first by trying to run him down late in the Kentucky Derby and finishing second, then by trying to match him stride for stride through most of the Preakness Stakes before fading to fourth.
So there had to be some relief in his barn when Justify - reportedly aimed for the Haskell by trainer Bob Baffert - was taken out of training a few weeks ago and not entered in the race. Earlier this week we learned the injury would keep Justify from training at all this season and that the 13th US Triple Crown winner was being retired.
Arguably the second-best three-year-old in the US, Good Magic is now the 6-5 favorite for the Haskell, the co-favorite at Bovada future bets for the $1.25 million Travers, and co-favored for the BC Classic.
Winning any of those isn't a lock, and he faces a pretty solid field on Sunday going 1 1/8 miles on the Monmouth Park dirt. While he can show early speed, his best races have come when he's able to sit just off the pace and that's probably where he'll want to be through the early part of the race and make his move as they come off the final turn.
With some of his main contenders being horses that will be coming from far back, jockey Jose Ortiz needs to be aware of any of those trying to get the jump on him.
Speedy Core Beliefs Always in the Money
His biggest challenge could come from Core Beliefs (4-1) who was unraced at two, but who has now finished in the money in all six lifetime starts as a three-year-old. After scoring his maiden win at Santa Anita on his third try back in March, he stepped right up to Grade 1 company and ran third behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. Since then he's run second in in the (G2) Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park and last out won the (G3) Ohio Derby with a determined stretch drive after coming from off the pace.
He appears to be an improving colt, and a win on Saturday over Good Magic would put him solidly in the conversation for the other big races down the road.
The horse Core Beliefs ran down in Ohio is Lone Sailor (5-1) who ran in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and who has had some decent results at the stakes level. He's put almost a half-million dollars in the bank despite only having one win in 11 lifetime starts, including going 0-for-6 so far in 2018.
He has a tendency to hang late in races once he gets on or near the lead, as he did in Ohio, and that has cost him some wins. Expect that once again he'll be a factor here as they come to the wire and then settle for a minor prize.
The only New Jersey-bred in the field, Golden Brown (15-1) could be a useful play on exotic bets at long odds. After starting his career racing on dirt, winning at the allowance level at Monmouth, his last two starts have been on the turf. He last out won the (G3) Kent Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, and prior to that he was second in the Dan Horn Stakes, a race that was restricted to New Jersey breds.
Now he goes back on the dirt, and it 's always tricky to handicap horses when they're switching surfaces. He's taking a huge step up in class here, but it's worth noting those last two results were both at double-digit odds. Expect him to show early speed and take them as far as he can.
The Haskell Invitational Stakes goes Sunday, July 29 from Monmouth Park in Monmouth, New Jersey. It's race #12 and the last of five graded-stakes races on the day and has an expected post time of 5:45 PM Eastern.
Entries w/ ML Odds
- Lone Sailor (5-1)
- Navy Commander (12-1)
- Roaming Union (10-1)
- Core Beliefs (4-1)
- Bravazo (3-1)
- Good Magic (6-5)
- Golden Brown (15-1)
Haskell Invitational Picks
- 1) #6 - Good Magic
- 2) #4 - Core Beliefs
- 3) #1 - Lone Sailor
- 4) #7 - Golden Brown
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