08/02/2007 12:00AM

Curlin heavy chalk in Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Curlin drew post 6 for his comeback Sunday in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park. The Preakness winner will make his first start since losing the Belmont Stakes by a head to the filly Rags to Riches on June 7.

Track handicapper Brad Thomas made Curlin the even-money favorite against seven rivals in the 1 1/8-mile race. As usual, Robby Albarado will be aboard.

Trainer Steve Asmussen had a number of options for Curlin's comeback race. The fact that Monmouth will host the Breeders' Cup in October proved the most powerful lure.

"The main reason we are running him in the Haskell is that the Breeders' Cup is the objective for the second half of the year," Asmussen said.

Curlin lands in a race loaded with early speed. The speed quotient kicked up significantly with the announcement Thursday that Stormello had joined the field.

The winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity last December, Stormello most recently set the pace in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Owner-trainer-breeder Bill Currin made the late decision to fly Stormello in from California.

Stormello galloped Wednesday morning at Del Mar and was scheduled to arrive here late Thursday afternoon.

Stormello drew post 3 and is 15-1 on the morning line. Monmouth-based Eddie Castro will ride.

Hard Spun should also be part of the speed mix. Hard Spun and Curlin were the only horses to contest all three races in the Triple Crown. Like Curlin, Hard Spun has not run since finishing fourth in the Belmont. He will be reunited with jockey Mario Pino, who was replaced by Garrett Gomez for the Belmont. They will break from post 7.

Any Given Saturday, the sharp winner of the Dwyer Stakes last time out, breaks from the rail.

Cable Boy, the unbeaten colt who posted three front-running wins at Monmouth, has post 2. The closers Imawildandcrazyguy and Reata's Shadow have posts 4 and 5. Xchanger landed post 8.