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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Space Invasion: Monmouth Park -- Haskell Day

2012 Haskell champ Paynter
There's your 2012 Haskell Invitational champion, Paynter, who looked like a million bucks in the paddock. I'm not a big parade pick guy, but I loved the way this horse looked like it was rarin' to go in the paddock. On the contrary, Gemologist looked very calm (almost too calm) late Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park.

It was my third trip to the Longest Stretch on the Shore, the first being in 2006 for the Haskell on a long Whitney-Haskell weekend with the boys, by the time we showed up to Monmouth it was for the late stakes Pick-4 and the weekend was pretty much a blur. Bluegrass Cat won that edition in a romp and my first Haskell was in the books.

My second trip was for the 2007 Breeders' Cup Saturday and we all know what the weather was like that day, although seeing Curlin roll around the top of the stretch in the Classic is still my favorite live racetrack moment I've ever witnessed.

This year's trip was fueled by a family vacation in South Jersey (undisclosed location) and I treated my dad to his first trip to Monmouth on its biggest day. Over 35,000 patrons were on hand to see Bob Baffert win his third consecutive Haskell and his record sixth title. This was the first time I took some time to explore Monmouth and it is quite the maze.

We had seats on the third floor reserved section (this was a non-working trip) just past the finish line and the sight lines were very good. The only thing lacking was more people from the track helping those who might have looked lost. It took us a while to figure out where we were sitting and I think my dad got lost a few times trying to find our seats. I did figure out a nice route to the paddock down the escalators, and enjoyed spending some time along the fences at the paddock. It's an old school track that looks like it's been updated a few times. I like how the picnic area is actually on and just off the apron of the track, different from Saratoga, which is in the backyard.

Betting wise, it was the normal Haskell day bloodbath, equated only to my annual Belmont Stakes day wagering action. But, it wasn't about the wagering on Sunday, I was enjoying the sunshine, adding another major sporting event attended with my father and seeing a great performance by a rising and maturing horse. Even my Kreskin selection of a yellow Haskell hat bit the dust (it was blue)...oh well.

Here are some photos from my day....

Welcome to Monmouth Park
Our view from Reserved Clubhouse (3rd Floor)
Another view from our seats
Lunch - $8 Sausage Sandwich smothered
with peppers and onions (Level of Difficulty - High)
View of the plant from the paddock area
Yes, Elvis was in the building
(making a wager, of course)
You could even get your Saratoga fix
on the big screen in the backyard
Pletcher and Castellano
confer in the paddock
Dale Romans and Rafael Bejarano
with Afleeting Lady before the Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher upset winner
Brushed by a Star
Derby/Preakness winning jockey
Mario Gutierrez signing autographs
Brushed by a Star
surges to the wire
Handsome Mike's owner
Paul Reddam in paddock before the Haskell
Second place finisher Nonios
Corey Nakatani up
Dullahan with Kent Desormeaux
Gemologist, Castellano and Pletcher
leading him around walking ring
Show horse Stealcase with
Shaun Bridgmohan
Paynter wins the 2012 Haskell
Well that's a wrap from Oceanport and back to the beach for the rest of the week, we'll be back at it early next week.



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