08/01/2011 2:26PM

3-year-old division title remains wide open after Haskell, Jim Dandy

Alyssa Spakowski/Equi-Photo
Coil, with jockey Martin Garcia up, runs down Shackleford to win Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Tiznow, in 2000, is the last horse not to have won a Triple Crown race yet still be named 3-year-old champion. By virtue of a strong summer and fall campaign, culminating in a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Tiznow also won Horse of the Year.

At this point in time in 2011, there is no clear-cut leader in the 3-year-old division, nor is there a horse – male or female – that could be considered a clear front-runner for Horse of the Year.

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Coil and Stay Thirsty, the winners of Sunday’s Haskell Invitational and Saturday’s Jim Dandy, respectively, have put themselves in the conversation, at least as far as far as 3-year-old divisional honors are concerned.

It appears that Coil and Stay Thirsty are headed for a collision course in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27. Eight of the last 15 Travers winners have come out of the Jim Dandy, while only three have come out of the Haskell.

Bob Baffert, trainer of Coil, said Monday that his horse would van to Saratoga from Monmouth Park on Tuesday and run in the Travers, provided he trains up to the race well. On Monday, having returned to Southern California, Baffert continued to be in awe of how Coil won the Haskell despite breaking slowly and having to pass the entire field, the last one being Preakness winner Shackleford, while racing four to five wide.

“That horse was amazing, wasn’t he? Unbelievable what he did yesterday,” said Baffert, who won a record fifth Haskell. “When he missed the break and was way back there and went so wide, now he’s got to run down the Preakness and Belmont winners. I was thinking, that Point Given better show up. It finally did.”

Baffert was referring to the fact that Coil is son of Point Given, who in 2001 won the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers for Baffert en route to winning 3-year-old championship and Horse of the Year honors.

Martin Garcia, who rode Coil, said his horse waited a little bit when he got to Shackleford just inside the eighth pole.

“He wanted to look at the other horse,” Garcia said. “I must have switched sticks five times.”

Coil, just like Tiznow, did not run in any of the three Triple Crown races. Coil, who needed surgery to remove a knee chip following his maiden win last November, didn’t make his 3-year-old debut until May 6 – the day before the Kentucky Derby was run – when he won a first-level allowance race at Hollywood Park. But with his dramatic last-to-first victory Sunday, Coil has now won four of his last five races, including the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap – a race Tiznow also won. Coil earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for his Haskell victory in which he ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.20.

Haskell runner-up Shackleford was vanned to Saratoga on Monday. His trainer, Dale Romans, said he would consider both the Travers and the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward against older horses here Sept. 3 as potential next starts for his colt. The Woodward is run at 1 1/8 miles, an eighth of a mile shorter than the Travers. The Woodward also gives Shackleford an extra week to recover from the Haskell and he also would get a weight concession from the older horses.

“We’ll look at both races and decide where to run,” Romans said.

Trainer Kelly Breen said Haskell third-place finisher and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice would be pointed to the Travers. Breen felt both Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire, who finished fifth in the Haskell, struggled with Monmouth’s main track.

“I was really upset with the way the track was, it wasn’t the Monmouth Park track we’re all used to,” said Breen, who said Pants On Fire would not run in the Travers. “That hometown advantage sort of went out the door. That morning I breezed a bunch of horses and though the stretch was fast, the rest of the track was dead and it seemed to play that way in the afternoon.”

Meanwhile, in Saratoga, trainer Todd Pletcher was looking forward to running Jim Dandy winner Stay Thirsty in the Travers, but was not too concerned about discussing the race for divisional honors.

“Everyone’s making too big of a deal out of it way too soon,” Pletcher said. “Most of these horses are going to run at least three more races. I’d rather win the Travers and worry about the rest of it [later]. At the end of the day, winning races will take care of all the other stuff.”

Stay Thirsty was an emphatic four-length winner of the Jim Dandy, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.78 and earning a career-best Beyer of 106. Pletcher believes the extra distance in the Travers can only benefit Stay Thirsty.

“As well as he ran in the Belmont and with his pedigree, a mile and a quarter certainly doesn’t hurt him any,” Pletcher said.

Moonshine Mullin, the Jim Dandy runner-up at 37-1, returned to trainer Reade Baker’s Woodbine stable. Baker said he would bring Moonshine Mullin back for the Travers only “if the works are as good as they were preceding the Jim Dandy.” Otherwise, Baker said, he would point Moonshine Mullin to the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 24.

Dominus, the third-place finisher in the Jim Dandy, is under consideration for the Travers, trainer Steve Asmussen said.

“All options are open,” he said.

Rattlesnake Bridge, who won the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth but who skipped the Haskell, began working toward the Travers with a half-mile move in 50.50 seconds Sunday morning. Turbo Compressor and Raison d’Etat, the one-two finishers from Friday’s Curlin Stakes, also are under consideration for the Travers.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman