Gold Square’s Cyberknife set a track record while rallying from off the pace and charging up the rail, then held off the late rally from Taiba by a head to win Saturday’s $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.
It marked the second Grade 1 win for the son of Gun Runner.
The victory gave reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux their second straight Haskell win in the prestigious test for 3-year-olds after taking the 2021 edition with the adjudged winner Mandaloun.
Cyberknife’s final time of 1:46.24 for the distance of 1 1/8 miles established new stakes and track records. Earlier on the card, the Chad Brown-trained Highly Motivated had eclipsed the track record for nine furlongs set by Spend a Buck in 1985 when winning the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup.
In addition to the Haskell trophy, Cyberknife earned an all-fees paid, guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run at Keeneland on Nov. 5.
Al Gold, Cyberknife’s owner, lived in nearby Ocean Township for more than 35 years and has been involved in racing for over 50 years. Cyberknife, a $400,000 purchase earlier this year, won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. This is Gold’s first Grade 1 winner.
“This is a very big victory, especially to win this race right in my old back yard,” said Gold, who now splits his time between Saratoga and Delray Beach, Fla.. “The Arkansas Derby was very big, and the Haskell is as well. It’s a very big deal.
“I started betting horses when I was a kid and have owned horses for 40 years. You always have fantasies. You want to win the Kentucky Derby and all the big races, but this is one of the ones I really wanted to win. And we’re on our way to the Breeders’ Cup now.”
Cyberknife, let go at odds of 7-1 by the crowd of 22,138, settled off the pace on the inside under Geroux, advanced inside nearing the far turn, waited for room as they neared the quarter-pole, rallied down the lane to engage 2-1 second choice Taiba, and then dug down deep to win in a photo.
Taiba, trained by nine-time Haskell-winning trainer Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, was the runner-up, two lengths in front of 7-10 favorite Jack Christopher.
“I think this is his best race to date,” said Cox. “Throughout the race I thought he looked very professional with the way he handled himself. At the quarter-pole, Florent had a nice hold of him and he was loaded.
“He responded well when asked. He flew at the end. I am very proud of him. He was able to settle. Florent took a good hold of him and then made a run up the backside and got him in position along the rail. Then Florent turned for home and he looked like he had a lot of horse. He was just figuring out whether he was going inside or outside of the leader. I think at that time it was Jack Christopher.
“It looked like he made the right decision staying to the inside and we were able to hold off Taiba. It was a big effort. I’m very proud of this horse and our whole staff. He’s been a challenging horse at times. A lot of the good ones are.”
Zedan Racing’s Taiba, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita in just his second start and was making just his fourth career effort, may have been compromised by inexperience.
“He made a gallant effort, that’s for sure,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s long-time assistant. “He came running. We’re very proud of him. I was hoping to be one-two.
“It’s possible his lack of seasoning might have had something to do with it a little bit. I have to talk to Mike (Smith, the jockey) and see what he thinks. We’ll get him home to California and see how he comes out of the race and go from there.”
Chad Brown, who won all four graded stakes on the undercard and five races on the day to tie the record for most wins on a Haskell day card set by Todd Pletcher in 2016, saddled Jack Christopher. The Haskell was the first time the colt attempted to stretch out from the distance of one mile and navigating two turns.
The distance and the competition proved no problem for Cyberknife, who improved his record to 5-2-0 in nine starts and became a millionaire with the $600,000 winner’s share of the $1,017,500 total purse. He rewarded his backers with $17.60 win price.
Geroux, who is Cyberknife’s regular rider, gave his colt a brilliant ride.
“I had confidence in the horse,” he said. “I had a lot of horse underneath me. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. I stayed cool. My target was Taiba and Jack Christopher.
“By the backside you could tell that some of those other horses they were already (out of the race). I pushed the gas a little bit like I did in the Arkansas Derby just to get into him. He responded instantly. He has a turn of foot like a turf horse on the dirt. He can make several moves in the race. We knew that before the race. That’s why I used him a little bit to take good position at the half-mile. From there I stayed quiet until it was time to go.”
Howling Time, Benevengo, King of Hollywood, White Abarrio, and One Time Willard completed the order of finish.
Cox said after the race that Cyberknife, who garnered a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure, would return to his Saratoga division and, if all goes well, will point to the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes for his next start.
ADHAMO CAPS CHAD BROWN’S WIN SPREE ON HASKELL DAY WITH 1½-LENGTH SCORE IN SATURDAY’S GRADE 1 UNITED NATIONS
Trainer Chad Brown won his fourth consecutive graded stakes and fifth win on the TVG.com Haskell Stakes undercard to tie a record set by Todd Pletcher when Adhamo defeated stablemate Tribhuvan and eight other top turf runners in the Grade 1, $600,000 United Nations Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.
Pletcher won five races on the 2016 Haskell card but not four straight stakes, as was the case with Brown.
Adhamo, who had been third and second in two previous Grade 1 stakes, finally broke through for his top-level score. The 4-year-old colt owned by Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and partners, came from off the pace as the 9-5 favorite to run down tiring stablemate Tribhuvan the 2021 winner of the United Nations. The locally-based Epic Bromance, who was sent off at 72-1 and was the longest shot on the tote board was 1½ lengths back in second. Temple took third, another head back.
“He’s been a little unlucky this year.,” Brown said of Adhamo. “He’s still a little bit of a work in progress. I’m still trying to figure out what his best distance is, and ground and such. I was pretty confident going in to today that if he was able to get out in the clear and with a little bit extra ground to work with that he could run down a horse as good as Tribhuvan, and he did. He’s a pretty talented horse. We’re still figuring the horse out.
“(Jockey) Flavien Prat worked out a beautiful, patient trip. It’s not like he had a fast pace to run into today either, so he earned this win today.”
Prat rode four straight graded stakes winners on the undercard.
Adhamo’s final time for the 1 3/8 miles was 2:12.60 over firm turf. He paid $5.60 for a $2 win bet.
In the supporting stakes on the Haskell Stakes card:
GRADE 3, $400,000 MONMOUTH CUP
Klaravich Stables’ Highly Motivated and John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock’s Pipleline, both from the powerhouse barn of four-time Eclipse Award winning-trainer Chad Brown, finished one-two, respectively, in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes as Highly Motivated established a new Monmouth Park track record for 1 1/8 miles.
The 4-year-old Highly Motivated, ridden by Flavien Prat, rated off the pace of his stablemate and then made a sweeping move leaving the backstretch to run by Pipleline in the lane and prevail by 1¾ lengths in 1:46.53 on a fast track. Informative took third, another 2¾ lengths behind.
Spend A Buck set the old track record for the distance in 1985.
The win was the first in a graded stakes for Highly Motivated, who competed on the 2021Triple Crown trail to no avail. Brown sent him to the sidelines to find his legs again, according to Brown, who added that it’s taken this long for the horse to realize his potential.
Highly Motivated is by Into Mischief and with the win upped his record to 4-2-1 in nine career efforts. Sent off at 4-5, he returned $3.60 to win.
GRADE 3, $400,000 MOLLY PITCHER STAKES
Klaravich Stables’ multiple graded stakes winning Search Results, trained by Chad Brown, asserted herself as one of the best in the Filly & Mare division with a dominating performance in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes as she powered through the lane for a three-length victory.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, the 4-year-old filly took the lead in the far turn and then sailed clear to the wire to cover the mile and a sixteenth on a fast track,
GRADE 3, WINSTAR MATCHMAKER STAKES
Peter Brant’s Lemista, who was a multiple graded stakes winner in Ireland before Brant purchased her and brought her stateside in 2021, captured her first North American win and graded stakes win in North America with a gutsy effort in the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Matchmaker Series.
Lemista, who is trained by Chad Brown and was ridden by Flavien Prat, rated off the pace in the 1 1/8 miles turf race, took the lead heading for home, and dug in late to repel a charge from her fast-closing stablemate Fluffy Socks and cross the wire a half-length in front. Vigilante’s Way finished took third by a neck.
Lemista covered the nine furlongs over firm turf in 1:47:07. Dispatched as the fourth betting choice in the field of eight fillies and mare, she paid $11.20 for a $2 win bet.
The top three finishers will be awarded a season to WinStar stallions Global Campaign, Tom’s d’Etat, and Improbable.
$100,000 WOLF HILL STAKES
Breakthrough, who is owned by RT Racing Stable and trained by Juan Avila, broke through in the $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes to win the first stakes race of his career and post the upset under Samy Camacho.
Breakthrough, a 4-year-old gelded son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, covered the 5½ furlongs over firm turf in 1:00.99 to finish a half- length in front of Belgrano in the eight-horse field. Admiral Abe was third, another 1½ lengths behind. Graded stakes winner The Critical Way, who won the Wolf Hill last year, finished fifth as the even money favorite.
Breakthrough, who won his second straight 5½-furlong sprint on the Monmouth Park turf, returned $34.80 to win. He improved his record to 4-3-0 in 13 starts.