June 6, 2023

Cyberknife edges Taiba, establishes new track record in Haskell; Jack Christopher third

Cyberknife #1 with Florent Geroux riding wins Haskell Stakes (Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

Cyberknife rallied determinedly up the rail to win Saturday’s $1 million Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, prevailing by a head over Taiba. The Brad Cox-trained colt sped 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.53, eclipsing the track record set earlier in the afternoon by Monmouth Cup (G3) winner Highly Motivated.

Regular rider Florent Geroux was up on the chestnut, who was exiting a win in the June 12 Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs, and Cyberknife enhanced his credentials in a scrambled three-year-old male division, earning his third graded stakes triumph from the last four outings.

Cyberknife will target the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 27, an important test that figures to determine the frontrunner in the division.

“I think this is his best race to date,” said Cox. “Throughout the race I thought he looked very professional with the way he handled himself. At the quarter-pole, Florent had a nice hold of him and he was loaded. He responded well when asked. He flew at the end. I am very proud of him.”

Off as the 7.80-1 fourth choice, Cyberknife punched his ticket for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in the “Win and You’re In” race, and record-breaking freshman sire Gun Runner is responsible for the top two finishrs in the prestigious event.

The victory had a local flair for owner Al Gold, a New Jersey resident of more than 30 years who had a large contingent of supporters on hand.

“This is a very big victory, especially to win this race right in my old back yard,” said Gold, who now splits his time between Saratoga and Delray Beach, Fla. “The Arkansas Derby (G1) was very big, and the Haskell is as well. It’s a very big deal.

“I started betting horses when I was a kid and have owned horses for 40 years. You always have fantasies. You want to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) and all the big races, but this is one of the ones I really wanted to win. And we’re on our way to the Breeders’ Cup now.”

Cyberknife romped in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park three starts previously, sandwiching an 18th in the Kentucky Derby between the Matt Winn, and he’s now pushed his career earnings past the $1 million mark ($1,596,520) from a 9-5-2-0 record.

It was a tough setback for Taiba, who rallied four-wide to strike the front in midstretch but could not withstand the late surge of Cyberknife. The Santa Anita Derby (G1) victor was making his first appearance since a 12th in the Kentucky Derby, and he left the starting gate as the 2-1 second choice in his fourth career start.

Odds-on favorite and multiple Grade 1 winner Jack Christopher, who entered unbeaten from four starts, tracked the pace in second before taking a short lead into the stretch, but he eventually wilted to be a non-threatening third in his first two-turn attempt. Jack Christopher appears headed back to one-turn distances.

Cyberknife stalked off the pace in sixth after breaking from the innermost post, and he launched his bid two-wide into the stretch before angling to the inside, closing determinedly through a small opening to outduel Taiba to the wire.

“I had confidence in the horse,” Geroux said. “I had a lot of horse underneath me. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. I stayed cool. My target was Taiba and Jack Christopher. By the backside you could tell that some of those other horses they were already (out of the race). I pushed the gas a little bit like I did in the Arkansas Derby just to get into him. He responded instantly.

“He has a turn of foot like a turf horse on the dirt. He can make several moves in the race. We knew that before the race. That’s why I used him a little bit to take good position at the half-mile. From there I stayed quiet until it was time to go.”

Howling Time wound up two lengths back of Jack Christopher in fourth, and Benevengo, King of Hollywood, White Abarrio, and One Time Willard completed the order.

Bred by Ken and the late Sarah Ramsey, Cyberknife was produced by the multiple stakes-winning Flower Alley mare Awesome Flower, and this is the immediate female family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Well Armed. Cyberknife was purchased for $400,000 as a Fasig-Tipton yearling in 2020.

“It was a big effort,” Cox said. “I’m very proud of this horse and our whole staff. He’s been a challenging horse at times. A lot of the good ones are.”