For nearly 50 years, Al Gold made countless trips from his home in New Jersey to Monmouth Park.
He’s watched more editions of the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) than he can remember in his 66 years on this earth.
When he bought his first horse about 15 years ago he had some wild dreams of winning the Haskell, but after all those years of gambling he realized that dreams and reality don’t often coincide.
But they did on July 23rd.
Gun Runner’s son, Cyberknife, named for a surgical tool that rid Gold’s body of prostate cancer, wrote a new chapter in Gold’s relationship with Monmouth Park as he made heavy moves up and down the track along the rails a head win set a record time of 1:46.24 for 1 1/8 miles over Bob Baffert-trained Taiba in the $1,017,500 Haskell for 3-year-olds at the track that Gold calls his second home.
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“I have a lot of great memories here and this is the best horse I have ever had. It’s his second Grade 1,” said Gold, who races under the Gold Square banner and now resides in Florida and Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s a special feeling. There are no words to describe it.”
With 3-5 favorite Jack Christopher weakening in the last furlong and finishing third, back-to-back Haskell wins for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux (who won by disqualification with Mandaloun a year ago) added a little more confusion to a 3- year-old division with an 80-1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner in Rich Strike, a Preakness Stakes (G1) winner in Early Voting who will compete in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on July 30, and a Belmont Stakes Presented by the winner of NYRA Bets (G1) in Mo Donegal who is sidelined and will miss the Breeders’ Cup due to bruised bones.
Now you can add Cyberknife to this mix of title contenders. Bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey out of Flower Alley mare Awesome Flower, he won the Arkansas Derby (G1), giving Gold his first Grade 1 win as an owner. Next up is a van ride to Saratoga Race Course where the chestnut colt is expected to run in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) on August 27th, promising to have a big say in the crowning of the 3-year-old champion male.
“He’s got a very good racing record and if he keeps moving forward he’ll be a contender for the 3-year-old champion,” Cox said of a 3-year-old who finished 18th at the Kentucky Derby but won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) on his last start. “He has a lot to do but hopefully by the end of the year he will be a horse with his name in his hat. I think he can do the mile and a quarter (the travers distance). .”
The Late Summer and Autumn Classics will have special meaning for Cyberknife as he can receive a $1M bonus from BetMakers if he wins both the Travers and Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on November 5th in Keeneland add a win. The winner of 5 of 9 starts with a profit of $1,596,520, securing a seat in the Classic until Saturday’s victory in a BC Win and You’re In Stakes.
Jack Christopher and his trainer Chad Brown took center stage as the eight starters entered the gate. Brown had already matched Todd Pletcher’s performance on the 2016 Haskell card with five wins, bidding on a 3-5 unbeaten shot for a sixth and a sweep of Monmouth’s five graded stakes.
Jack Christopher is owned by Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Peter Brant and Coolmore Stud and, by Munnings, has a Miler pedigree and the two-time Class 1 winner made his debut in two rounds against three other top-level winners.
After a half-mile in: 46.96, Jack Christopher was second by a length behind Benevengo, 56-1, at a burned-out circuit where the 37-year-old course record set by Highly Motivated’s Spend a Buck was broken four races earlier when he hit the Monmouth won the Cup (G3) in 1:46.53 four races earlier.
Midway through the corner, after six furlongs in 1:09.93, Jack Christopher and Jose Ortiz made their move and grabbed a slight lead over Howling Time at the quarterbar. But behind them, both Cyberknife and Taiba, winner of the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) by Zedan Racing Stables, turned up the heat.
As Howling Wolf dropped to fourth place, Cyberknife moved in the middle alongside Jack Christopher from the inside and Taiba from the outside. With the favorite unable to keep up in the final furlong, the fight culminated in Cyberknife and Taiba struggling to get to the wire first, with Cyberknife ($17.60) taking the nod as fourth choice 7-1 .
“I had great confidence in this horse,” said Geroux. “I had a lot of horse under me. He turns his feet like a turf horse on dirt.”
Taiba, ridden by Mike Smith, made his first start since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby and was reunited with Baffert, who returned to his stable earlier this month after serving a 90-day suspension for Medina Spirit’s drug offense and disqualification in the year 2021 had served the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s still learning,” Smith said of the Gun Runner’s son, who made his fourth career start on Saturday. “I had him inside and I couldn’t let him run down for nothing so I had to swing him outside and then he ran a great race. I thought I was going to win.”
If Taiba makes the switch to the Travers, he will need another coach as Baffert is suspended from racing on New York Racing Association tracks until January.
For Jack Christopher, who was two lengths behind Taiba and had never ridden more than a mile as of Saturday, the seven-stay H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) in Saratoga on Aug. 27 is his next target.
“I felt really, really good going home,” Brown said after his 3-year-old’s first loss in five starts. “I thought it was a nice trip but at the end of the day I thought he put up fair factions. It’s pretty simple that we have to cut it back. Hats off to the winner. He looked like a real menace overall.”
On a day where 22,138 spectators bet $1,303,642 on the course, despite the setback at Haskell, it was a great day for Monmouth and a damn good one for Brown. His five wins, including a Grade 1, were in races with a combined prize pool of $1,660,000.
“It was a great day and Monmouth should be applauded for putting on such a great day of racing,” said Brown. “We came here with some of our best horses because they offered really good money in logical races that made sense at this time of year. Management could not have been more accommodating. I’m really excited to get back to where it is.” started for me. After the Breeders’ Cup in 2007 I applied for my coaching license here in Monmouth.”