07/28/2011 11:44AM

Monmouth: Haskell draws eight, Shackleford and Ruler On Ice will start side by side

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Emily Shields
Belmont winner Ruler On Ice (left) and Preakness winner Shackleford will meet again in Sunday's Haskell.

With one classic victory apiece, both Shackleford and Ruler On Ice are very close atop the 3-year-old division. When the two meet in Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, they will be equally close – at least before the starting gates open.

Preakness winner Shackleford drew post 5 while Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice drew post 6 when entries were made for Sunday’s 44th renewal of the Haskell. Shackleford, who won the Preakness at 12-1 odds, was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite by Monmouth linemaker Brad Thomas while Ruler On Ice, a 24-1 upset winner of the Belmont, was made the co-third choice at 4-1 along with his stablemate, Pants On Fire. Though both Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire are owned by George and Lori Hall and trained by Kelly Breen, they will run as separate betting interests in the Haskell.

Coil, who won the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park, drew the rail and was made the 3-1 second choice. Coil is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Haskell four times, including last year with Lookin At Lucky.

If Shackleford goes off the favorite, it will be the first time in his career that will be the case. The lowest price Shackleford has ever been was 9-2 when he won a first-level allowance in February at Gulfstream by 2 1/4 lengths.

"I don’t think he’s going to know it, but it’s a little different type of pressure for all of us around him," Dale Romans, the trainer of Shackleford, said about being favored. "He never gets the respect he deserves, although he deserved to be a big price in the Florida Derby coming off the Fountain of Youth flop. I thought he’d be a little shorter price in the Belmont."

Shackleford, who will be ridden by Jesus Castanon, looks like the primary speed in the race, though there are several others who have shown the ability to be close. Pants On Fire sat second winning both the Louisiana Derby and Pegasus. In between, he bled when finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

A good pace would likely benefit Ruler On Ice, who despite laying second when winning the Belmont is likely to be further off the pace on Sunday.

"They both have their idiosyncrasies," Breen said when describing his pair of Haskell starters. "You have one horse like Pants On Fire that is calm and relaxed around the barn and when they come out of there he wants to go, go, go. The other guy, who’s in la-la land, until pressed then wants to go. They could complement each other."

After Coil finished second in the Swaps, Baffert elected to take the blinkers off for the Haskell. He said he will leave the riding tactics up to Martin Garcia, who won the Haskell from the rail aboard Lookin At Lucky last year.

"He’s going to run a big race," Baffert said. "This is going to be more of a class test for him."

Astrology, third in the Preakness, but sixth in the Iowa Derby, drew post 8 and was made the 9-2 fourth choice. Others entered include Tesio Stakes winner Concealed Identity (12-1), Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann (15-1), and Bay Shore Stakes winner J.J.’s Lucky Train (20-1).

The Haskell will be the 12th race on a 14-race card that begins at noon. The Haskell goes off at 5:43 p.m. and will be televised live on ABC Sports in a one-hour program beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. The race is also part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series and offers a Win and You're In berth for the BC Classic.

Haskell Invitational
Purse: $1 million; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

Post - Horse - Jockey - M/L odds
1. Coil - Martin Garcia - 3-1 
2. Joe Vann - Joe Bravo - 15-1
3. Pants On Fire - Elvis Trujillo - 4-1
4. Concealed Identity - Chris DeCarlo - 12-1
5. Shackleford - Jesus Castanon - 5-2
6. Ruler On Ice - Jose Valdivia Jr. - 4-1
7. J J's Lucky Train - Paco Lopez - 20-1
8. Astrology - Julien Leparoux - 9-2