Barbadian trainer Saffie Joseph agonisingly missed out on victory in the 53rd running of the US$1 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park when his entrant Ny Traffic lost to favourite Authentic in a spectacular photo finish on Saturday.
Authentic, under Triple Crown winner Mike Smith for Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert, seemed home and dry when he cruised three lengths in mid-stretch, in race 12 of the 14-race card.
However, 6-1 bet Ny Traffic who had tracked Authentic every inch of the 1-⅛ mile trip, then burst to life and produced a thundering late run under Paco Lopez, leaving a photo finish to determine the eventual winner.
The 33-year-old Joseph said he was still proud of Ny Traffic despite the defeat which has now seen him finish second in his last three starts – all graded stakes outings.
“At the quarter pole, you could see he was off the bridle and Authentic was cruising. So to see him dig deep, I’m super proud of him,” said Joseph, the leading trainer at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
“I just want him to go forward. Hopefully, all goes well until the Kentucky Derby. We’re living the dream.”
Authentic carved out the early fractions, notching 23.60 seconds for the quarter and 47.52 for the half mile, with Ny Traffic glued to his flank, Jesus’ Team tracking from third and Lebda fourth in the seven-horse field.
Leaving the final turn with a narrow lead, Authentic opened up beautifully before Ny Traffic created the late fireworks.
There was also disappointment for Joseph in the US$315 000 Grade III Monmouth Cup Stakes in race 10 when his Math Wizard finished 1-½ lengths behind winner Global Campaign in second.
Going off at odds of 9-1, Math Wizard came with a strong late run under Trevor McCarthy but failed to really threaten Global Campaign, who had earlier dismissed a challenge from Joevia through the half-mile before dominating under Jorge Vargas.
Math Wizard, a four-year-old chestnut colt, won the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby last September at Parx in Philadelphia for Joseph.