Coil gives Baffert record fifth Haskell triumph

Staff Writer

Trainer Bob Baffert said he would learn a lot about his 3-year-old colt, Coil, at the July 31 $1 million Resorts Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport.

Baffert was convinced his horse would “run a big race,” but he admitted that Coil did not have the résumé of the likes of Triple Crown race winners Shackleford (Preakness) and Ruler On Ice (Belmont), whom he would be up against.

“We find out a lot about him” at the Haskell, Baffert said at the pre-race press conference on July 28.

On the strength of a brilliant ride by jockey Martin Garcia, Baffert learned he has another great horse on his hands.

With one swift move in the homestretch, Coil ran down pre-race favorite Shackleford to win the 44th running of the Haskell and throw his hat into the ring for top 3-year-old honors. He ran the mile-and-one-eighth in 1:48.2, beating Shackleford by a neck.

The win was hardly as easy as it looked. Coil, who is a speed horse who generally likes to run at the front, broke poorly out of the gate and was in last place eight lengths back at the quarter pole.

“It’s over,” Baffert said he thought when he saw Coil break out of the gate. “We came a long way to take a mucking.”

Garcia, however, did not think it was over. Races are not won in the first turn and he did not panic.

“He (Garcia) stayed so cool,” Baffert said .

Garcia did not try to make up the eight lengths quickly.

“I didn’t want to move too soon,” he said .

Garcia let Coil, the son of the 2001 Haskell winner, Point Given, settle in and find his pace. He was still eighth at threequarters, but moving up.

As the field hit the homestretch, Shackleford moved into the lead, but coming up strongly five-wide was Coil.

“I let him make one move,” said Garcia. “When I asked him, he took off.”

Blast off was more like it. Coil made up ground in a hurry and before the fans at Monmouth Park could blink, he was battling Shackleford for the lead.

Shackleford and rider Jesus Castanon dug in and did their best to hold off Coil’s charge, but he was too strong for them and won the battle to the finish line with Ruler On Ice (Jose Valdivia Jr.) closing hard and finishing third.

“When I saw him (Coil) make the big move outside, it was unbelievable,” said Baffert. “It reminded me of Point Given. I was so impressed.” Baffert may have been more impressed by his rider, Garcia.

“He rides by instinct,” the trainer said. “That was a great ride. He won this race. He gets it done in big races.”

Baffert is now a perfect five-for-five at the Haskell and that is the most wins for any trainer. His win streak started with Point Given in 2001.

“I love this little place,” he said. “I love coming to Monmouth Park. They do such a great job.”

One of Baffert’s pre-race rituals is to go toMax’s Hot Dogs in Long Branch for a hot dog before heading to the track.

Baffert said he has nothing but respect for the Haskell.

“You need a lot of luck and you have to bring a good horse here,” he said.

Baffert found out on July 31 just how good a horse he brought to the Haskell. Coil has now won four of his six lifetime starts and has been in the money all six times. His winner’s share of the Haskell ($600,000) is his biggest paycheck.

Baffert’s other Haskell winners were War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005) and Lookin At Lucky (2010).

Garcia became the first jockey to win the Haskell Invitational two years in a row.

Trainer Kelly Breen has been the toast of Monmouth Park since his steed Ruler On Ice won the Belmont Stakes in June, which was his first Triple Crown race victory.

Breen, of Farmingdale, and owners George and Lori Hall, of Atlantic Highlands, had two entrants in the Haskell — Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire (Elvis Trujillo). Pants on Fire finished fifth.

“On to the Travers with him (Ruler On Ice),” Breen said of the next likely matchup between Shackleford, Coil and Ruler On Ice, which will be at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, N.Y., on Aug. 27.

Breen said that when the pace quickened in the third quarter, it took Ruler On Ice some time to get going again and the distance lost was too much for him to make up with his late charge.

Pants On Fire was in a position to strike in the homestretch, but could not match the kick of the other horses, according to Breen.

Attendance at Monmouth Park for the Haskell Invitational was 38,895. The ontrack handle was $2,917,048.

Also on the July 31 card was the $100,000 Jersey Derby, which was won by Breathless Storm and jockey Paco Lopez; the $100,000 Majestic Light Stakes, won by Soaring Empire with Julien Leparoux; and the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes, won by Force Freeze (Lopez).