Bluegrass Cat Blows Away Field In $1M Haskell

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The New York Sun

OCEANPORT, N.J. — The stage is set for a summer showdown at Saratoga in the Travers Stakes: Bluegrass Cat vs. Bernardini.Bluegrass Cat earned his top billing with a record seven-length victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park yesterday. Bernardini is considered the leading 3-year-old with victories in the Preakness Stakes and the Jim Dandy.

“If we can get him to repeat a performance like this I’d be optimistic running against anybody out there,” Bluegrass Cat’s trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We’ll savor this one for the moment, then look ahead at what’s down the road.”

Pletcher knows exactly what’s ahead, and that’s a first-time matchup against Bernardini in the Travers on August 26. The colts did not meet in the Triple Crown races. Bluegrass Cat was second to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby and to Jazil in the Belmont Stakes; Bernardini skipped those races and won the Preakness, the race everyone remembers as the one in which Barbaro shattered three bones in his right hind leg. Jazil is sidelined with a leg injury.

“It’s good to have competition,” Bernardini’s trainer Tom Albertrani said after another of his 3-year-olds, Deputy Glitters, finished eighth in the Haskell. “Bluegrass Cat is the only horse that we haven’t faced that is one of the better 3-year-olds left out there. It will make for an interesting race.”

With a crowd of 42,318 cheering for local favorite Praying for Cash — owned by New Jersey native and former basketball star Bobby Hurley — it was Bluegrass Cat who put on a dazzling performance.

A promising son of Storm Cat without a breakthrough win, Bluegrass Cat started from the outside no. 9 post and moved into contention under jockey John Velazquez around the turn for home.Then, the colt blew past pacesetting Praying for Cash and rolled to the largest winning margin in 39 runnings of the Haskell. Majestic Light won by six lengths in 1976.

“We were able to get good position going down the backstretch and he was pulling on me just waiting for me to ask him to run,” Velazquez said. “When I called on him, that was it. He really just took off, went right by that other horse. He did the whole thing really easily.”

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