It’s a common misconception that after Thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown season comes to an end, the interesting races are pretty much over for the year, and the wait begins for the next Triple Crown season. But for many race fans, the Triple Crown races are simply appetizers for the entrée of top-notch summer races that begin in July and lead up to the prestigious Breeders’ Cup championships in November.
The Haskell Invitational
On the morning of July 27th, it was announced that Exaggerator will skip his planned run in the Jim Dandy Stakes and instead face Nyquist and Gun Runner in the Haskell Invitational, setting up a rematch between the top three finishers from the Kentucky Derby. Nyquist and Exaggerator have raced against each other five times in the past, with Nyquist winning four times before Exaggerator turned the tables in the Preakness Stakes.
The Travers Stakes
Nyquist has been training steadily in California while targeting the major races of the summer and fall, including the Travers Stakes on August 27 at Saratoga, the “Midsummer Derby” that is considered by many to be an unofficial fourth leg of the Triple Crown.
The Travers is also the summer target for Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator and Belmont Stakes winner Creator, which could set up a fantastic and rare showdown between the winners of the three Triple Crown races.
With Creator planning to prep for the Travers in the July 30th Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, Nyquist’s task in the Haskell will be a bit easier, but he’ll still face a quality group of rivals that includes several veterans of the Triple Crown, including rival Exaggerator. Gun Runner, who led into the homestretch of the Kentucky Derby before tiring to finish third. The talented colt came back to win the June 18th Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs, giving him the advantage of a recent race in comparison to Nyquist, who hasn’t run in two months.
What the Haskell Means This Year
Brody’s Cause, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont Stakes, is also planning to run in the Haskell, along with newcomer American Freedom, who caught the attention of racing fans with an easy win in the Iowa Derby on July 1st.
A victory in the Haskell would further enhance Nyquist’s race record and strengthen his chances of being named Horse of the Year for 2016. Although he’s off to a good start, with three wins from four races this year, he could face tough competition for the title from 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome—the highest-earning racehorse in North American history—as well as the exciting and history-making mares Beholder and Tepin, who are unbeaten this year and seemingly getting better with every race. Nyquist is expected to face California Chrome and Beholder in the November 5th Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race that will likely settle the championship.
The Haskell Invitational will be broadcast live on NBC Sports on July 31st starting at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Be sure to tune in and watch as Nyquist returns to the races and begins his preparations for the Breeders’ Cup!
J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and racing enthusiast who considers Zenyatta to be his all-time favorite racehorse. He is the founder of the horse racing website TheTurfBoard.com and writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.