Nothing funny about Peace Rules’ win at the Haskell

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

Winning jockey Edgar Prado gives the triumphant thumbs-up after riding Peace Rules to the win in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Sunday.Winning jockey Edgar Prado gives the triumphant thumbs-up after riding Peace Rules to the win in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Sunday.

OCEANPORT — With a record New Jersey racing crowd of 53,638 packing Monmouth Park Sunday and setting new marks for betting, Edmund A. Gann’s Peace Rules led every step of the way to win the $1 million Haskell Invitational as even-money favorite Funny Cide could do no better than third.

At the finish of the mile and an eighth Haskell, Peace Rules held a length and three-quarters margin over Sky Mesa, who was seven and a quarter lengths in front of Funny Cide. Wild and Wicked was a length farther back in fourth.

The last three spots in the field of seven went to Max Forever, Kool Humor and Excessivepleasure.

Peace Rules, trained by Bobby Frankel and ridden by Edgar Prado, was making his first start since running fourth behind Funny Cide in the Preakness Stakes on May 17. Before that, he was third to Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby.

"He was really sharp going into the first turn and he just kept on running," Frankel said over the phone from Saratoga, where he had saddled Empire Maker to run second in Sunday’s Jim Dandy Stakes. "I really thought the outside horses would outrun him early. Our plan was to sit behind horses early, but he was so sharp.

"It’s a great race to win, it’s a million dollars and Grade 1. I’m happy for the owners because they had a great weekend [they won Saturday’s Whitney at Saratoga with Medaglia d’Oro]."

Prado echoed the trainer’s comments. "He was very sharp today," the rider said. "He wanted to go out there running. In the stretch he found another gear and kept on running. I felt someone coming at me late. I didn’t know it was Sky Mesa, but my horse was home by then."

Prado added that the race did not go exactly according to plan.

"It didn’t work out the way we planned early, but it did in the end. I was planning on going out there and sitting off the pace, maybe laying third or fourth, and then come nail them in the stretch. When the gates opened, he was ready to roll and he just took me to the front.

"I know Bobby [Frankel] has always been very high on Peace Rules, and this race proved it."

And for Prado, Sunday’s win proved that he had made the right choice in deciding to ride Peace Rules rather than Sky Mesa.

"It was a very hard decision," he said. "I told my agent Bob [Frieze] on Monday that I was going to ride Peace Rules. They are two very nice 3-year-olds and it was a tough decision to make."

Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide, had no explanations for the gelding’s lackluster performance.

"I don’t know what to say," the trainer said with a shake of his head. "He didn’t do any running."

Funny Cide’s jockey, Jose Santos, said, "He broke real nice. I had a good hold of him, but he just spit the bit at the six-furlong pole. After that he was just traveling along. He didn’t accelerate. He just wasn’t the same horse I rode in his previous races."

Jack Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stables (owner of Funny Cide), was also surprised with the horse’s performance, though he was quick to shrug off any perceived disappointment.

"We expected him to run a bigger race than he did," he said. "He passed a couple of horses in the stretch and he gave it his all. He won two of the best races for us this year and he finished third in two Grade 1’s. That’s more than most 3-year-olds can say this year.

Sky Mesa’s jockey, Robby Albarado, said that his horse simply ran out of racetrack.

"The pace wasn’t too slow. I decided to sit off Peace Rules, but he got away from us at the pole," he said. "He [Sky Mesa] didn’t find his best stride until late and he galloped out strongly. He’s still learning, he’s still maturing. The way he finished, I think down the road he’ll be a better horse."

Sky Mesa’ trainer, John Ward Jr., was complimentary of his horse.

"I was very pleased. It was only his second start as a 3-year-old," he said.

"His next try will be at a mile and a quarter [Travers Stakes on Aug. 23] at 126 pounds. He came of age from the quarter pole to the wire. He’s made great progress. Robby Albarado rode him perfectly. He was in a perfect position and kept him in contention. This is a learning process."

The Haskell was the sixth career victory in 11 starts for Peace Rules, and the winner’s share of $600,000 brought his lifetime bankroll to $1,859,990.

The 3-year-old son of Jules, who won the Louisiana Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes this spring, paid $6.60, $3.80 and $2.10 after racing nine furlongs over a fast track in 1:49 1/5. He topped a $28.20 exacta and a $54.40 trifecta.

Wagering records fell across the board during the day, as the total Monmouth handle of $12,532,532 eclipsed the mark of $11,256,345 set in 2001, and the on-track betting of $3,965,735 surpassed the record of $3,950,002 that had stood since 1968. Betting on the Haskell alone was $3,703,584, which topped the former mark of $2,706,397 set in 2000.

The Hambo-Haskell double, a $2 wager coupling the $1 million Hambletonian Trot at the Meadowlands Saturday and the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, paid $331.20. Amigo Hall, the Hambletonian winner, paid $57 to win.

The crowd was a record for Monmouth Park, topping the mark of 47,127 set on Haskell Day in 2001. It was also a record for any racetrack in the state of New Jersey, eclipsing the old mark of 51,077 set at Garden State Park on May 30, 1967.

With Sunday’s win in the books, Frankel initially chose not to share any future plans for Peace Rules, but quickly changed his tune Monday.

"It’ll be the Pacific Classic," he said. "The track suits him better, plus I think I’m in pretty good shape for the Travers."

Frankel will be represented in the $1 million Travers on Aug. 23 by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who was second by a neck in Sunday’s Jim Dandy at Saratoga.