07/23/2014 1:19PM

Haskell: Medal Count is still an enigma

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Medal Count won the off-the-turf Transylvania Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland (above), but he also has wins on turf and dirt.

Even though we have seen a lot of Medal Count this year, there is a lot we still don’t know about him. His best distance? His preferred racing surface? And, to cut to the chase, where he fits in the 3-year-old division?

Even his trainer, Dale Romans, isn’t sure about the first two questions. “He can do just about anything,” Romans said. “I really don’t know.”

But Romans has little doubt regarding Medal Count’s quality. On Tuesday, he compared Medal Count’s potential to what he had previously seen in his best runners: turf champion Kitten’s Joy, Dubai World Cup winner Roses in May, Preakness winner Shackleford, and $3.5 million earner Little Mike.

On Sunday, Medal Count will be given the opportunity to prove his trainer right in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Medal Count comes into the Haskell off the best race of his career, a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Medal Count had a tricky inside trip in the Belmont. Never far back, jockey Robby Albarado had to be extremely patient with a cooperative Medal Count until he was able to angle out for the stretch run. At the sixteenth pole, there was little separating Medal Count and race winner Tonalist. At the finish, the difference was one length.

:: Haskell Invitational: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live

Since beginning his career with a maiden win at Ellis Park last September, Medal Count has not missed a beat. In the nine months from his debut until the Belmont, he started nine times.

“I’ve only had a handful of horses in my career that get better the more you do with them,” Romans said. “Shackleford and Kitten’s Joy were like that, and so is Medal Count. The more you train him, the better he gets. The more you race him, the better he gets.”

Medal Count’s ability is difficult to judge because he has had an unusual season. He started the year with an optional-claiming win on turf at Gulfstream Park. Two races later, he won the off-the-turf Transylvania Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland. That victory encouraged Romans to come back eight days later in the Blue Grass Stakes in the hope of earning enough qualifying points to get into the Kentucky Derby. Medal Count finished second and was in.

Three weeks later, he finished eighth in the Derby after having to steady sharply in the stretch. From there, it was on to the Belmont.

“He never really put it all together until I got him to Keeneland in the spring,” Romans said. “That’s why we tried to get him the Derby points.”

Because of Medal Count’s versatility, Romans has plenty of options following the Haskell. On Tuesday, he said two races that would be considered were the Travers and facing older horses over Del Mar’s synthetic surface in the Pacific Classic. If the Pacific Classic sounds like a big task for a 3-year-old, remember that Romans already has turned that trick, defeating Game On Dude with Dullahan in 2012.

One key to Medal Count’s ability to handle different surfaces and distances, Romans said, is that he is a very straightforward horse to train.

“He’s a unique horse. He never has a bad day,” Romans said. “Ask him to go fast, he goes fast. Ask him to go slow, he goes slow. He goes out and does his work, eats lunch, takes a nap, and wakes up looking for dinner.”

◗ The Haskell undercard includes five stakes: the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Cup at 1 1/16 miles; the Grade 2, $200,000 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles; the Grade 3, $150,000 Oceanport at 1 1/16 miles on turf; the Grade 3, $150,000 Matchmaker for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf; and the $100,000 Teddy Drone at six furlongs.

◗ The Haskell Challenge, a free online handicapping contest, will be offered Sunday. Entrants will pick one horse in each of Monmouth’s 14 races. The winner will receive a VIP package for two to the Breeders’ Cup. For complete rules, visit www.haskellgame.com.

◗ Sunday’s Haskell card will offer a $250,000-guaranteed late pick four and a $100,000-guaranteed pick five. Both wagers have a 50-cent minimum. The day also includes a Haskell ball cap giveaway.

Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
The tracks do themselves a disservice by carding 8f and 8.5f races. An astute handicapper can eliminate many of the outside horses. Thus the mutual handle is adversely affected. At ten and twelve furlongs, post position is not as much of a factor in your handicapping. There are fewer automatic throw outs. Horses drawing posts 10 to 14 would still need to be considered for play.
flash gordon More than 1 year ago
speed favoring track would not be good for medal count also needs more distance.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
if this horse gets the same kind of run like he did in the Belmont, I cant see him finishing worse than second. and at 8/1, theres no way Im not going to bet this horse!
Steve S More than 1 year ago
Medal Count is in over his head on dirt, in relation to oace and won't make the superfecta. Throw out.
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
Medal Count is a TURF horse and it is sad the handling of him. He has such class he wins on Poly all due to class, he runs OK on dirt sometimes all because of class. If he would finally let the horse be a turf horse you would be looking at a champion . IF they don't ruin him on dirt next yr, finally give in and let him be a turf horse then we will finally see how great this one could be .
Ann More than 1 year ago
The Belmont showed that on dirt, he needs a distance of ground, not an extended mile like the 9f of the Haskell. On surfaces that test stamina more, like Polytrack and turf, he's okay for shorter distances, but the type of glib dirt courses we have today are kinder to horses with miler speed than to genuine stayers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dirt tests stamina more than turf
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
have to agree ..unfortunately its always glib on big days.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
I've been to te last 10 Haskells and ALWAYS.... inside speed will RULE
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
Medal Count appears to be an underrated 3 year old. As a Dynaformer he should get better with age.
B More than 1 year ago
I've used him once in an exacta and once in a trifecta to no avail. I'm not going for a win. I'm done.
Holdouts More than 1 year ago
He was my horse in the Belmont. I played him in exactas (which lost) but also in my winning trifecta/super bets. The $1 trifecta paid me $3400 so yeah I will have him somewhere Sunday.
David Gray More than 1 year ago
I love Medal Count and I think Dale Romans is one of the most underated trainers in the country. I was hoping that he would run him in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlinton (1 1/4 on turf.) But we'll see.
mike More than 1 year ago
Can't stand Romans.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Why?
mike More than 1 year ago
He pushes his horses too hard. Couple years back Shack had lost the Derby,but they ran him in the other two legs-Preakness/Belmont. Why not at least leave off one? Shack ended up running ten times that year. I like nothing about him,will take Motion or Shug over him any day!
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Have to disagree with you. I think he does an excellent job with his stock and seems to care deeply about his horses, loves the sport, loves talking about horses with fans and media, all in all just an admirable represenative of the trainer profession. Of course, Tammy contributes immensely to that operation as well.
mike More than 1 year ago
I respect your opinion,but will take Shug over him.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Shack turned out to be a really nice horse. Not much you can critique abt Romans for his job there.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
oh NO 10 TIMES...PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee
RandomNameMeToo More than 1 year ago
You think he overraced a horse that had all of ten starts on the year? Oh, I see. You're trolling. Not in a very amusing way, though. Be more creative next time, try something really wacky and off the wall instead of acting as if ten starts is an incredibly harsh campaign.
B More than 1 year ago
What is there to love about Medal Count?!
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
That undercard and the distances are a complete shame. Is Monmouth scared to run 10f races? 12f races? 8.5f after 8.5f races...disgrace.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Not just at Monmouth either, even the posh Saratoga meet is loaded with sprints and 8.5f races.
Mike Reinhardt More than 1 year ago
Um, have you been paying attention the last 15 years? No one writes anywhere near as many 10 or 12 furlong races, because people are breeding to win 5 1/2 furlong two year old races now.
B More than 1 year ago
Absolutely! A mile and a sixteenth is the new mile and an eighth which is the new mile and a quarter. Personally, I dislike mile and sixteenth races a lot. They're not sprints and they're not really distance races. They are just sorta meh.
james More than 1 year ago
If the racing secretaries put the purses behind 10 and 12 furlong races, the buyers, owners and trainers would move in that direction. They follow the money. There's no choice but to follow the money. But when top level tracks like Saratoga, Santa Anita, Churchill and Keenland book cards filled with sprints and now turf sprints, it facilitates the purchase of sprinters above stayers. The racing secretaries succumbing to the whining of the trainers and owners of the equine greyhounds on their grounds have been a major cause of the current state of the breed.
james More than 1 year ago
btw- I love sprint racing and went over to the track this afternoon for one race just to see the Quick Call in person. My beef is with the sprint dominated cards and the weakening of many major stakes by reducing their distance.
Jimmy Metzger More than 1 year ago
You all are silly.
mike More than 1 year ago
Says the silly one.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
BEt on England races. you'll love that.