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Jul 24, 2009

Comings and goings of three-year-olds

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here we are almost two months after the conclusion of the Triple Crown series and the leading three-year-olds still in training are getting closer to returning to competition.

The August 2 running of the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park will have the added luster of top rated filly Rachel Alexandra in the field. The Preakness Stakes champ will take on Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird in the 1 1/8 mile race.

"Everything is exactly on schedule," noted Summer Bird's trainer Tim Ice. "Kent (jockey Desormeaux) will be here for that."

After these leading three-year-olds, the quality of the field for the Haskell will not be quite as good as hoped for just a month ago. Illinois Derby winner Musket Man has been shelved for the remainder of 2009 and Arkansas Derby champ Papa Clem is only a possible starter.

Local winner Atomic Rain could be the third betting choice in the Haskell field. Trained by Kelly Breen, the colt is coming off a victory in Monmouth's Long Branch Stakes.

"He's in great form right now," Breen said. "At his best at the right time."

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Munnings in the Haskell. The colt won the Woody Stephens Stakes and Tom Fool Handicap earlier this year.

On Saturday, August 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird returns to the track in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park. The 1 1/8 mile race will be the gelding's first start since finishing third to Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes. Mine That Bird has been training at Churchill Downs

Mike Smith will have the ride on Mine That Bird at Mountaineer and for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The three-year-old will be driven from Louisville by trainer Chip Woolley to West Virginia later this week.

Catching up with some other three-year-olds who have poked their heads into the headlines earlier.

Nicanor, a full brother to Barbaro, was scratched from Saturdays $750,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, which was won by Battle of Hastings. Nicanor was scratched from the race by trainer Michael Matz due to "physical issues". The Lael Stables' colt was the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the grass race.

Florida Derby winner Quality Road worked Friday morning at Belmont Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher the colt went five-furlongs in 1:01.41.

"He worked well this morning," Pletcher said Friday, "and everything is on schedule for the Amsterdam."

Quality Road will start in the $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Monday, August 3.

Midshipman, 2008 Juvenile Champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, is training at Belmont Park for a return to the races. The colt is owned by Godolphin Stable and trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

Trainer Bob Baffert picked up his fourth win in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday with Misremembered. The three-year-old fills the void left in Baffert's stable with the retirement of Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile.

"It's sort of been tough, I've been depressed since Pioneerof the Nile got hurt, so this sort of takes a lot of the sting out of it," said Baffert. "It's exciting to have a horse like this. It looks like this one is not a problem, he's getting better. He was coming into this race in great shape and he's going to get better with age."

Second to Grazen last month in the Affirmed Handicap, Misremembered has career earnings of $259,200. Grazen was second in the Swaps, ending his three race win streak.

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