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Jul 28, 2011

Preakness and Belmont winners highlight Haskell


Oceanport, NJ (Sports Network) - Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes champ Ruler On Ice top a field of eight for Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. The 1 1/8-mile race for three-year-olds is a "Win and You're In" event, giving the victor a certain spot for the Breeders' Cup Classic this year at Chucrhill Downs.

Shackleford, trained by Dale Romans, will start from post five with Jesus Castanon in the saddle. The Preakness champ has been made the 5-2 morning-line favorite, while Belmont Stakes title holder Ruler On Ice is listed at 4-1.

"I think we're all even," said Romans about this year's class of three-year- olds. "If Ruler On Ice or our horse wins they'd have to be considered in the lead for three-year-old honors."

Owned by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge, Shackleford is the winner of three of eight career starts for just over $1.5 million. This year he began with an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park followed by a fifth in the Fountain of Youth, second to Dialed In in the Florida Derby and a fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

After his win in the Preakness at Pimlico, the chestnut colt faded to fifth behind Ruler On Ice in the Belmont.

"He really seems to have held his flesh very well following the Triple Crown," Romans said. "He's been training great recently and everything is a go for the Haskell. We're very happy with how he is doing. I think the cutback in distance (from the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes) will help him.

"Monmouth is a track that can sometimes be conducive to speed, but he doesn't have to be on the lead. He's shown the ability to sit just off the pace in the past."

Last year, Romans saddled his first Haskell starter when Preakness runner-up First Dude finished third to Lookin At Lucky.

Ruler On Ice will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. from post six for owners George and Lori Hall. The Halls have also entered Louisiana Derby champ Pants On Fire in the Haskell, and both are trained by Kelly Breen.

"We're the hometown team," Breen said. "It's nice to have so many people rooting for them."

The Belmont winner, like Shackleford, is making his first start since the 1 1/2-mile Test of Champions. The chestnut gelding was second in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico four weeks prior to his historic victory. In March he finished third to Twice the Appeal in the Sunland Derby.

Ruler On Ice has earned $766,500 with three wins in seven lifetime starts.

Pants On Fire is also 4-1 in the program and will break from post three with Elvis Trujillo riding. Trujillo is filling in for the colt's regular jockey Rosie Napravnik, who is recovering from a broken arm.

Winner of Monmouth's Pegasus Stakes on June 16, Pants On Fire began 2011 with a third at Aqueduct in the Count Fleet Stakes. He then finished second in the Lecomte at Fair Ground Race Course, but could only manage a sixth-place finish in the Risen Star in New Orleans. His Louisana Derby win put him in the Run for the Roses where he finished ninth.

The colt has three wins and three seconds in 10 career starts for $798,100.

"I think Animal Kingdom is a great horse and I think Shackleford is a great horse," Breen said concerning the division title. "But it's the upcoming races that are going to decide it."

Here is the full field for the Haskell from the rail out: Coil, Martin Garcia, 3-1; Joe Vann, Joe Bravo, 15-1; Pants On Fire, Elvis Trujillo, 4-1; Concealed Indentity, Chris DeCarlo, 12-1; Shackleford, Jesus Castanon, 5-2; Ruler On Ice, Jose Valdivia Jr., 4-1; J J's Lucky Train, Paco Lopez, 20-1 and Astrology, Julien Leparoux, 9-2.

Last year's winner Lookin At Lucky was later voted 2010 champion three-year- old male. The 2009 Haskell was won by eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and in 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ Big Brown captured the race on his way to being voted that year's champion three-year-old colt.

The 44th Haskell will be televised by ABC with post-time scheduled for 5:45 p.m.(et).

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