Geo Sette, who in addition to handicapping has been known to cook up a gourmet dish or two, makes what he can out of the 2020 Haskell Stakes. In this year of uncertainty the Haskell is a Kentucky Derby points race.
As the scrambled 2020 racing schedule continues into the dog days of summer and many marquee races have been rescheduled, our Jersey Shore main event is running just about as promised, well almost. Yes, Monmouth Park is currently one of the few racetracks around the nation, amid the continued consequences of the pandemic, that is allowing fans to attend.
It’s a good idea, but there are still limitations as I experienced a couple weeks ago as I attended the track for a full card day of racing. There was social distancing and inside the grandstand and club house, face coverings were mandatory. There were limited concessions, with an outdoor stand for cold beverages and the only option for food was to nosh on a jumbo pretzel.
I’m hoping at this event the track will take better care of its patrons, especially with the much bigger crowd expected. They need to do better than to $5.00 sodas and cold pretzels.
This race always brings intrigue and lots of history to the table. With very little sports going on around the country and knowing that Saratoga’s meet has begun without fans, perhaps it will make for a great day at the track.
The field is limited to seven starters and most seasoned handicappers like myself will share that there are only three real contenders to capture its top prize and head into the winners’ circle. With that said, there’s a nice opportunity to be creative with your betting gimmicks and have a greater level of confidence going into the race.
As I typically do, I have put many hours into my work to provide as much information for you to use as a guide to make an informed decision for yourself at the windows.
Here’s my very best order of finish:
#1 Dr Post
This colt became my top choice for various reasons, but mostly due to his running style. He comes off a real quality 2nd at the Belmont Stakes to the top three-year-old in training, Tiz The Law, running a solid figure which to me wasn’t his very best yet. He possesses good tactical speed to stay close and save some ground to position himself for his best run coming into the stretch. He’s fresh and fit coming into the race with a few moderate breezes across town at Belmont for his debut on this Monmouth strip. Jersey Joe Bravo is up saddled by three time Haskell winner Todd Pletcher who last won this race in 2013 with Verrazano who holds the largest margin of victory. There isn’t a jockey around that knows the Monmouth strip better than Bravo who has won the local riding title more than a dozen times. It’s not easy replacing the fabulous Irad Ortiz, but in this specific case, you’re not losing too much. This big imposing colt seems to be perfectly spotted and is likely to be the public’s 2nd choice at the window to run this field down, especially feeling that the pace will be swift. Through all his years of success at Monmouth, Bravo has only won this race once and that was 16 years ago in 2004 with Lion Heart. This gives him a genuine shot on winning it again.
Much has been said about Bob Baffert and his recent disqualifications in Arkansas with two of his horses who tested positive for lidocaine.
On paper, most handicappers will share that this guy is the horse to beat, and Bob Baffert is looking to win this race for the 9th time. Hall of Fame Jockey, Mike Smith gets the assignment (he won this race 22 years ago aboard Coronado’s Quest) which of course adds to his appeal.
He’s consistent and reliable and his raw speed assures early contention. He’s working smartly and will be able to define his positioning. If he’s not pressed, he could lead this field gate to wire; however, considering the body of work with others in this field, I’m feeling he’ll have to work harder to get the job done which may provide a greater opportunity for my top choice. Even still, he’s tough to leave out of your exacta wagers, expecting a very short price, perhaps in the area of 3:5. Watch the board, it’s your call.
# 3 Jesus Team
This colt is starting to create a pretty cool “rags to riches” story for himself, so now his connections have ambitiously entered him in this Grade 1 summer gem. Obviously, he’s stepping up in class. Considering his significant path of improvement and his running style, if the pace is as quick as I feel it would be, I’m guessing he may be full of run to potentially grab a share of this purse at a nice price. I like the barn and he’ll be ridden by the confident Nik Juarez who knows the Monmouth strip very well. He’s 5 for 7 career in the money and I feel he’s built for this 9 furlong distance. My only concern is that he could possibly regress a little if his last was his top effort.
#7 NY Traffic
This gray colt has improved greatly as a three-year-old and comes from a hot Joseph Saffie Jr. barn. He gets Paco Lopez back in the irons after running 2nd in the Grade 3 Matt Winn stakes at Churchill Downs. He’s a smaller horse who’s been working brilliantly for this race. He has recently had to battle in some bigger fields, so I am expecting him to appreciate the added space to run. With his tactical speed, he’s likely to make his presence felt early as well. He’s raced at 5 tracks in his 8 career starts, and has been pretty consistent. I am expecting him to adapt to the Monmouth soil for his debut over the track. I’m just not entirely sure he wants this distance. He’s likely to be the 3rd choice at the betting windows, and he could better my rating, but I’m placing him 4th. I am hoping my 3rd choice can create a nice price to the triple in a race that will be hard to eliminate my top 2.
# 6 Lebda
This colt was purchased for $100,000 and really has been consistent and reliable for his owners, hitting the board in 7 of his 9 lifetime starts. He too has proven speed and should be on the pace early. I’m very impressed with his workout tab, but in the end, I simply feel he’s not as fast as my top 4 horses. I like his connections with Cintron for Gonzalez, but even still he may be best to use in your deeper gimmicks like your Superfectas.
# 4 Ancient Warrior and # 5 Fame to Famous
These two guys round out the field and I simply cannot endorse that they will be a factor in this race. They simply appear to be outclassed and will likely finish as the bottom two when the race is all said and done. I’m not using either of them on my tickets. I’m tossing them as I view this race as a 5 horse field.
Well there you have it, Let’s make it a fun day at the Jersey Shore.
All my best always, ~Geo