The William Hill Haskell Invitational has become a key race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Over the last two years, the Haskell Invitational has provided the Breeders’ Cup with not only competitive runners, but winners.
Nyquist and Gun Runner top the Haskell entries this year, but others expected to compete are Brody’s Cause, American Freedom (Sir Barton Stakes & GIII Iowa Derby winner), No Distortion (Long Branch Stakes winner) and Sharp Azteca (GIII Pat Day Mile winner).
Nyquist was in consideration for the San Diego Handicap, but the Haskell is a Grade I, which will strengthen his case for Champion Three-Year-Old honors.
Winning the Haskell and the Breeders’ Cup Classic is actually much tougher than it would first appear. Only three horses have completed the double — and only two have done it in the same year. Skip Away completed the double by taking the Haskell in 1996 and the Classic the following year.
Skip Away broke through as a top three-year-old in 1996 with his back-to-back wins in the Ohio Derby and the Haskell Invitational. He also won the Woodbine Million and the Jockey Club Gold Cup en route to Champion Three-Year-Old Male honors.
In 1997, Skip Away showed dominance by winning four of his eleven starts, while never finishing worse than third in any of those starts. His win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic capped off the year, earning him an Eclipse Award as Champion Older Horse.
The first horse to complete the Haskell-Breeders’ Cup Classic double in the same year was Bayern. Bayern was far from consistent, but he won where it counted, and when he won, he flashed brilliance.
After Bayern, American Pharoah swooped through in 2015, providing a magical year for many, by becoming the first to complete the Triple Crown in 37 years. After the historic Triple, he returned in the Haskell where he decimated the field, before later capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Despite being such a difficult task, Haskell-Breeders’ Cup Classic double is not impossible, as three-year-olds colts tend to do extremely well in the Breeders’ Cup Classic — winning 34 percent of the time.
However, despite the recent successes, Haskell performers do have a less-than-stellar record when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Since 1991, only nine horses have won the Haskell before advancing to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Of those nine, only three have finished in the money (third or better).
On the other hand, while Haskell winners have not always fared well in the Classic, other Haskell runners have experienced more success. In 1994, 1999, and 2007, the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner finished in the money in the Haskell. These horses are Concern (1994), Cat Thief (1999) and Curlin (2007).
This year, the older horses, including California Chrome, Beholder, Effinex and Melatonin have been dominant. This could pose a threat to the possibility of a third consecutive Haskell-Classic double being completed.
Will this year’s Classic winner come from the Haskell? History would seem to indicate the possibility of that is strong.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of US Racing.