Triple Crown winner American Pharoah Returns Sunday

Although Oaklawn runners have a good history in the Haskell Invitational, an Arkansas Derby winner has never captured the Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds, but that figures to change Sunday at Monmouth Park.

American Pharoah, runaway winner of Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes, makes his first start since sweeping the Triple Crown in the Haskell, which had its purse bumped from $1 million to $1.75 million Wednesday.

American Pharoah is expected to be the biggest beneficiary from the race’s hefty purse hike.

The Eclipse Award winner (2-year-old male) was installed the overwhelming 1-5 program favorite Thursday for his first start since winning the June 6 Belmont Stakes to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978.

“I think American Pharoah probably deserves that,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said after the post position draw.

American Pharoah, who will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, is scheduled to break from post 4 in the eight-horse field.

Also entered in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell are Upstart, Competitive Edge, Nonna’s Boy, Mr. Jordan, Keen Ice, Top Clearance and Dontbetwithbruno.

The Haskell could be American Pharoah’s first of two or three preps for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

Baffert said during Tuesday’s NTRA teleconference that he’s not looking that far ahead, however.

“We’re not doing it for his reputation,” Baffert said of racing American Pharoah after winning the Triple Crown. “He’s done a lot. But, I think as long as he’s trained and he shows me that he’s at that level, the minute I don’t see that, if he’s not training like he usually does, then he won’t run.”

American Pharoah is bidding to give Baffert his record eighth Haskell victory. Baffert won the race in 2010 with champion Lookin At Lucky, who began his 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Rebel. He also won it last year with Bayern, third in the Arkansas Derby.

The 2009 Haskell winner, Rachel Alexandra, won Oaklawn’s Martha Washington Stakes and Fantasy Stakes en route to Horse of the Year and 3-year-old champion filly honors.

Probable post time for the Haskell is 4:52 p.m. (Central). The race will be televised live by NBC.

American Pharoah was flown to New Jersey from his Southern California base Wednesday.
 
Super Saturday

Three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is named on Holy Boss for Saturday’s $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.

The Amsterdam is for 3-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs.

Holy Boss has won three consecutive starts, including a March 19 first-level allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn and the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes April 10 at Oaklawn.

In his last start, Holy Boss won the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes May 16 at Pimlico.

Caleb’s Posse won the 2011 Amsterdam after going through Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby prep series, highlighted by a victory in the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

Probable post time for the Amsterdam is 2:13 p.m. (Central).

The Big Beast, a March 1 Oaklawn allowance winner, is entered in Saturday’s $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) for older sprinters at Saratoga.

The Big Beast hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $400,000 Carter Handicap (G1) April 4 at Aqueduct because of a foot problem, according to owner Alex Lieblong.

Probable post time for the 6-furlong Vanderbilt is 4:03 p.m. (Central).

Tekton, unplaced in two allowance races this year at Oaklawn, is entered in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. Tekton is also entered in Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga and the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2) Saturday at Mountaineer.

Probable post time for the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy is 5:13 p.m. (Central).
 
$1 Million Man?

Carve will have his fourth chance to surpass $1 million in career earnings in Saturday’s $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer.

Claimed for $30,000 out of his 2013 career debut victory at Oaklawn, Carve has bankrolled $957,840 off a 7-4-4 record from 23 lifetime starts. The gelding is the defending West Virginia Governor’s Stakes champion.

Carve has lost four consecutive starts since a 3 ½-length victory in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn.

Carve fell short of cracking $1 million in career earnings after finishing second in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11 at Oaklawn, second in the $200,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) May 25 at Lone Star and fourth in the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) June 27 at Prairie Meadows.

Carve, a 5-year-old son of First Samurai, would be the first millionaire for Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s co-third leading trainer this year. Owner Mike Langford of Jonesboro, Ark., has already campaigned one millionaire in Jonesboro ($1,550,685).

Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile West Virginia Governor’s Stakes is 3:30 p.m. (Central).
 
Finish Lines

King of New York, who broke his maiden March 14 at Oaklawn, is entered in Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. … Madefromlucky, runner-up in the Rebel and fourth in the Arkansas Derby earlier this year at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2) at Mountaineer. …
Reigning male sprint champion Work All Week, winner of the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes in 2014 at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes at Mountaineer. … Kiss Moon, runner-up in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) in 2014 at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 West Virginia President’s Cup at Mountaineer. …
Heykittykittykitty, a two-time allowance/optional claimer winner at the 2015 Oaklawn meet, is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 West Virginia Secretary of State Stakes for filly and mare sprinters at Mountaineer. … Roll Tide Roll, an April 11 career debut winner at Oaklawn, is entered a first-level allowance sprint Saturday at Saratoga. The 3-year-old Elusive Quality colt will be making his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher after being sold privately following a runner-up finish in a May 29 first-level allowance/optional claimer at Churchill Downs. Roll Tide Roll made his first three career starts for trainer Wayne Catalano. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Street Story ($100,000 Dixie Belle and Instant Racing in 2014) finished second in Wednesday’s $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) at Saratoga. …Tax Deduction, fifth in three maiden-allowance races this year at Oaklawn, ran third for a $40,000 maiden-claiming price Wednesday at Saratoga. It was the second start at the Saratoga meet for Ron Moquett, Oaklawn’s sixth-leading trainer this year. … Bayern, third in last year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), finished third in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar. Bayern finished a nose ahead of Hoppertunity, winner of last year’s $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn. …Grade II winner I Spent It, unraced since finishing sixth in the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes April 10 at Oaklawn (bone remodeling in his lower right front leg), returned to the work tab Saturday at Saratoga, covering 3 furlongs in :38.09.