An increase in positive COVID-19 tests among the nation’s top jockeys in recent days, and the fallout from it is impacting Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.
On Tuesday, the New York Racing Association announced that it was locking down its jockey colony at the Saratoga meet, which begins on Thursday. Jockeys based at Saratoga will not be allowed to return if they leave to ride at other tracks — despite a number of New York-based riders having booked mounts in the Haskell, as well as the four other graded stakes on the card, including the Grade 1 $300,000 United Nations Stakes.
It’s unclear if the new restrictions will result in any horses being scratched from the Haskell Day card.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is expected to ship top Kentucky Derby prospect Dr Post, runner-up last month in the Belmont Stakes behind Tiz the Law. But regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will not be making the trip to the Jersey Shore with the new restrictions.
So Pletcher is turning to Joe Bravo, 13-time Monmouth Park riding champion, to ride Dr Post. Bravo, 48, won the Haskell in 2004 aboard Lion Heart.
“After being in this game this long, it’s about being in the right place at the right time, and the day before entries I pick up a mount on a nice horse like this,” said Bravo. “It’s nice because Todd and me and (owner) Vinnie Viola have had some success in the past. I think he’ll be one of the favorites.
“I was following Dr Post in Florida and he ran some really good races. He’s a big, strong horse. I’m really looking forward to riding him.”
Mike Smith will have the mount on Haskell favorite Authentic, but is supposed to ride on Friday at Del Mar in S, where four jockeys have already tested positive for COVID-19, including Luis Saez, who rode Maximum Security to victory in last year’s Haskell.
Every jockey coming to Monmouth Park must take a COVID-19 test, and Smith will be required to take one when he arrives on Saturday before being allowed to ride.
The Haskell is down to eight potential starters with the defection of Ete Indien. Monmouth Park officials were informed that the Patrick Biancone colt was not coming to the race on Monday but that it had nothing to do with Florent Geroux, Ete Indien’s regular rider, testing positive for COVID-19.
It’s unclear who will ride Sonneman for trainer Steve Asmussen, with New York-based jockey Jose Ortiz the colt’s regular rider.
Paco Lopez, Monmouth Park’s leading rider last year, already has a mount in the Haskell, scheduled to ride Ny Traffic for trainer Saffie Joseph.
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