OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) — Coming into the $1 million Haskell Stakes, the focus was on Bob Baffert’s bid to win the Grade I race for a 10th time and fellow trainer Chad Brown’s attempt to prevent it with the undefeated Jack Christopher.
Al Gold, a New Jersey native who never had a horse good enough to run in the Haskell, stole the show.
Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife made a bold move along the rail to pass Jack Christopher, then held off Baffert’s Taiba to win the Haskell at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
“I wanted to win for years and I’ve been an owner for 20 years, and finally we’ve got to win,” Gold said after winning a Grade 1 race for the second time this year. He had never won one before. “So it’s terrific. It’s indescribable.”
Ridden by Florent Geroux, the Brad Cox-trained colt ran 1 1/8 miles in a track-record 1:46.24 in getting to the wire a head in front of Taiba and Mike Smith.
Jack Christopher, who had won all four of his previous starts for Brown, finished two lengths back in third in the field of eight 3-year-olds.
It was a popular win for Gold, a long-time fan and owner at the Jersey Shore track. He named the yearling Cyberknife because he had that type of procedure to cure a case of prostate cancer in 2021.
The win also secured a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall at Keeneland.
Cyberknife paid $17.60, $5.20 and $2.80 in winning for the fourth time in six starts this year, and earing $600,000 for his owner.
Taiba, who returned to the Baffert barn this month after the Hall of Famer finished severing a 90-day suspension for the disqualification of Medina Spirit in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, returned $3.80 and $2.60. Jack Christopher, the 3-5 favorite with Jose Ortiz riding, paid $2.20.
Long shot Benevengo was hurried to the lead at the start and led the field through the first six furlongs with Jack Christopher, Howling Time, Cyberknife and Taiba close behind.
Jack Christopher took the lead on the turn for home but Taiba quickly closed on the outside and put his head in front. With Benevengo tiring, Geroux moved Cyberknife to the rail in the stretch and started to charge.
Gold said he was worried.
“Bit I saw when he broke sharp, we were confident, Flo took him back a little bit further than I thought,” Gold said. “But he moves at the right time and just won.”
Brown and jockey Flavien Prat had a monster day on the Haskell undercard, saddling and riding the winners of the $400,000 Monmouth Cup, the $200,000 Matchmaker Stakes, the $400,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes and the $600,000 United Nations Stakes in consecutives races.
Brown’s horses ran 1-2 in the Monmouth Cup, with Highly Motivated ($3.60) beating Pipeline and with Lemista $11.20) holding off Fluffy Socks in the Matchmaker. Search Results ($3.20) romped in the the Molly Pitcher and Adhamo ($5.60).
Brown also saddled the winner of the $60,000 allowance race with Manny Franco guiding Awesome Aaron to victory. The five wins tied a track trainer’s record on Haskell day.
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