Sette’s current home field, The 2022 Haskell at Monmouth Park

July 20, 2022

Geo Sette will try and make the most of a home field advantage as he deep dives The 2022 Haskell which is also a Win And You’re In race for The Breeders’ Cup Classic.

There’s one thing for certain here in the great state of New Jersey, you just know that summer is in full swing when it’s time for the Haskell at beautiful Monmouth Park. Inaugurated back in 1968, the Haskell has been the centerpiece of the New Jersey racing circuit and  is always one of the most anticipated attractions down the Jersey Shore. This mid-summer classic has always attracted many of racing’s best three-year-olds and offers the essentially important “Win And You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  

There’s an abundance of racing history with many champions running through the Haskell to complete fabulous three-year-old campaigns, many becoming great older horses, as well as becoming significant in the breeding process to create future champions. 

The 2022 installment is a talented field of 8 but all the Triple Crown winners and contenders ( Rich Strike, Early Voting, Epicenter, Zandon, Charge It, Smile Happy, Messier) moving on to Saratoga for either the Jim Dandy Stakes and/or the Travers Stakes.  The Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal is sidelined with a bone bruise and will miss the Saratoga meet and will also not be running in the Breeders’ Cup this fall.

This year’s race does have 3 horses returning who ran in the Kentucky Derby, all of whom will be adding to the intrigue of the day. If my memory stands correct, I will be attending my 25th Haskell Stakes, which has been easy for me as I have lived in the New York/New Jersey area my entire life.  Looking back, I have countless memories of this great race, most notably watching Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, coasting home to victory in 2015, and 4 years ago in 2018 watching Good Magic ( who I offered in this column as a huge lock) not disappointing as he won cruising to victory for Chad Brown.  

As I write this column and knowing the forecast, we are in the middle of a heatwave here in New Jersey. It’s very likely the temperature during the race will be above 90 degrees, with the real feel closer to 100.  These conditions have been considered in my handicapping analysis and on race day, it will be important to realize how each horse looks in the paddock and during the post parade leading to the gate. 

There’s a field of 8 three-year-old colts going, 4 of which have already won Grade 1 events. I find it very compelling with 5 realistic contenders, 3 of which are serious contenders,  with the remaining 3 clearly outsiders. 

I have gone through my process of film study, watching the career replays of all the starters in the race, breaking down all the numbers with past performance reconciliation, as well as a deep dive into the pedigree/bloodlines. I firmly believe that it is always absolutely necessary to go through this process to come up with my opinion of the precise order of finish. 

You can use my analysis as a guide so you can make an informed decision for yourself at the windows and with some racing luck, perhaps there’s a score waiting for you. Remember your betting opportunity is all you make of it.  Let’s all make some money! 

Here’s my precise order of finish for all 8 horses entered:

Cyberknife #1   

Cyberknife trains for The Haskell, Photo Ryan Denver, Equi-Photo
Cyberknife with exercise rider Katie Tolbert enjoys a morning workout on Thursday July 21, 2022 prior to racing in the $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational. Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

This colt seems to be sitting on a big race, perhaps his best yet!  Sired by Breeders’ Cup champion Gun Runner, he was purchased for $400,000 as a yearling and comes into this race earning just shy of a million dollars in his brief career of 8 races. As a juvenile, he raced well sprinting ( actually won his debut, but was disqualified and placed 2nd) and he eventually graduated after being stretched out to a longer distance. He began his three-year-old campaign with a rather dull head-scratcher in the Grade 3 Laconte, but then he rebounded with a pair of impressive victories, including winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby where he soundly defeated hot-shot filly and eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath.  In his Arkansas Derby win, he showed great maturity and patience through the first half mile, then willingly split horses to grab the lead and he coasted home to win by almost 3 lengths.  In the Kentucky Derby, he broke well from the 16th hole, and ran hard along with a super fast first quarter ( the fastest ever recorded in Kentucky Derby history) for that entire run past the stands the first time. He was sandwiched between two horses which he cleared to get into ample striking position. He was then bottled up inside, as they turned for home he was forced wide and was used up. To my eyes, his jockey Florent Geroux ( his only rider who is back up for this race) never asked him to run again, finishing 18th. It was a smart move as they kept him safe.  

5 weeks later in the Grade 3 Matt Winn stakes( cutting back distance at 8 + 1/2 furlongs) this guy was absolutely game, showing tremendous heart as he got into a real dogfight, being brushed with Howling Time, as they battled from what seemed to be the entire stretch run. He ran his career-best Beyer that day and based on his workouts and how fresh he seems, I’m feeling he will move forward from that effort. He’s built for the distance ( Gun Runner relished in it) and he’s already proved it by winning the Arkansas Derby at the same distance.  The connections are solid, I have great trust and respect for Brad Cox with his choice to bring his colt to New Jersey for this event, and there’s no doubt Geroux knows his horse and how he responds to his urging. 

 I’m expecting him to break alertly from the rail, and sit in a patient position perhaps 4th, around 3-5 lengths off the pace. As I am expecting a moderate to fast pace, he’ll have the desired fractions to mount a powerful close (with a clean trip) to make his presence felt as they come thundering down the lane.  A contender for sure, and I feel he can pull off the upset with a perfect trip at what could be a sweet price of around $14.00 or so.  

Taiba  #2   

Taiba training for The Haskell
Taiba trains at Santa Anita for The Haskell

This guy is also the son of Gun Runner. Purchased as a yearling for a robust $1,700,000, he became an instant hot shot earlier this year.  Never raced as a juvenile, he began his career in early March where he dominated his MSW field to win by 7+ lengths while posting a rather imposing 103 Beyer. He was then ambitiously entered in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, stretching out to the same 9-furlong distance, and he did not disappoint, racing 4-wide with a powerful/driving close defeating his stablemate Messier. At the time, he was being conditioned by trainer Tim Yakteen who took over for the suspended Bob Baffert. Entered in the Run For The Roses, the Kentucky Derby, with extremely limited race experience, he faltered badly.

Now he’s making his return to the ring after being sidelined for 2+ months.  Mike Smith ( who has won this race three times, 1994,1998, and then again 22 years later with Authentic in 2020) is the jockey. Bob Baffert is back training his horse as he seeks a simply astonishing 10th Haskell Stakes Victory.   This colt comes into this race with a series of sharp works, so there’s no doubt he’s fresh, fit, and very dangerous.  He’s an automatic contender. Although he’s still lightly raced, he simply is built for the distance and his connections must be highly respected.  He’s a threat to win it all, but I’m listing him as my very close 2nd choice. I would be very surprised if he didn’t fire in the stretch. I am expecting him to be forwardly placed, show tactical ability, perhaps sitting just off the pace and then asked to run as they are turning for home. He is likely to gobble up lots of action at the windows. There’s a possibility he could end up being a co-favorite with Jack Christoper.   He will be fun to watch for sure. I would use him in most of your betting gimmicks. 

Jack Christopher # 7   

This guy has been nothing less than absolutely sensational in all 4 of his career starts and there’s no doubt he looms to be the odds-on favorite ( probably in the area of 3-5) when they load the horses into the starting gate. Trained by Chad Brown, expect him to be prepared to run his very best with Jose Ortiz, his regular rider back in the silks. This colt was purchased for $135,000 and he has already returned $841,000 in earnings after winning all four of his starts. So now he’s running over a 4th surface gunning for the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Haskell purse. 

Jack Christopher’s sire Munnings screams to be better as a sire of sprinters and milers which has already been proven with a great portion of Munnings offspring,  with the dam (Rushin No Blushin) producing progeny who had their best success sprinting.  These are facts considering total races won and overall earnings. 

His pedigree clearly leans towards sprint races at 5, 6, or 7 furlongs, tops at best a mile (8 furlongs). However, this colt has boatloads of talent being undefeated in 4 races, over 3 different race tracks, and of course, he’s already a two-time Grade 1 winner. 

Even still, there are several horses with defined tactical speed in this race and who are already proven to take to the distance. Most importantly, he’ll be going two turns for the first time and will be asked to outrun his pedigree going a mile and 1/8th.  Can this happen? Of course, there are many who have done so, but this is an important element to consider.

I have been impressed with this horse in viewing his victories, with all coming by open lengths. He won his Saratoga maiden sprint event by 8+ lengths, the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes by 2+ ( both as a juvenile). Then after a shin injury sidelined him for 7 months, he came back running on the Kentucky Derby undercard winning the Pat Day Mile by 3+ lengths. Then a month later he dazzled the Belmont Park crowd winning by 10 lengths in the 7-panel Woody Stephens Stakes.  

All of these victories were dynamic, posting fabulous Beyers, but to me, I feel the company he defeated wasn’t much competition, especially considering the Grade 1 level, so I believe this field will be his toughest yet. He did draw a very accommodating # 7 post position.  He’s the speed of the speed and he should be forwardly placed as they turn for home.

Can we all be witnessing a superhorse? Sure, you cannot argue with his talent, but at a short price, and pressed into his longest distance yet, along with his challenge to outrun his pedigree,  he’ll be my 3rd choice.  Thinking that as good as he is, the final 1/8th may be too much to ask if he’s eye-balled by a few hard-charging challengers.  

White Abarrio #6    

This colt, the son of Race Day, was purchased for only $40,000 and has been a classic over-achiever.  There’s no doubt he belongs in this field and he should be respected as an absolute contender, especially with the jockey change to Joel Rosario who has a very pronounced history in big Grade 1 races.  He is trained by Florida-based Saffie Joseph, who has had great success very early in his career.  On film, while viewing race replays, this horse is definitely one who is built to relish this distance, and with that, the race just may set up for him to mount a powerful close in the stretch. He’s raced this same 9-furlong distance twice, hitting the board, filling the exacta each time, and of course, winning one, the Grade 1 Florida Derby with a solid Beyer of 96.  I wasn’t entirely thrilled with his last effort, the Ohio Derby where he got Lasix, was supported at the windows, and finished well but was a disappointing 2nd. I’m thinking although that was a step-back, considering the conditions of this race, he may be in a position to take a step forward and contend here.  He also raced in the Kentucky Derby, but in that race breaking from the 15th hole, he never seemed to get going, was constantly wide, and folded late in the race. The connections here must be respected, and although I do prefer my top choices listed above,  I feel this guy is deserving of a puncher’s chance and he should get consideration with many of your deeper gimmick wagering boxes, and gimmicks like your triples and superfectas,  especially with the addition of Rosario who carries his swagger with him into this race. 

Howling Time #4   

Intriguing colt as he comes into this race after a very game stretch duel with my top choice # 1 Cyberknife.  Trained by Dale Romans, who has won his share of big races and has had some big placings at long odds to his credit.  Dependable Joe Talamo will be up in the saddle again( he’s been his only rider through 7 starts).  He’s a nice colt who has shown rather dramatic improvement as his three-year-old campaign has moved on. He possesses nice gate speed so I fully expect him to be either on the lead or very close to it during the first quarter and into the first half mile. Two races back in a $100,000 optional claimer event at Churchill he seemed to really relish the wet/sloppy going as he won ridden out by 5 lengths. Based on the very hot/dry forecast, not sure he’ll get a wet track, so there’s no doubt his supporters will be hoping for a major thunderstorm late in the day on Saturday.  As I mentioned, I was impressed by his gutty performance in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes, but based on his recent works, and his effort in that race, I’m thinking that perhaps it took something out of him to take another step forward almost 6 weeks later.  He’s my 5th choice and based on his improvements as a racehorse, he’s the last one I would list as a contender, especially if a few of the horses listed above somehow failed to fire their best.  In my opinion, best to be used in bottom/deeper gimmicks, like superfecta or triple savers.  Clearly, he’s better than my bottom three listed below. 

Benevengo #8  

Overall a nice-looking horse who’s been working steady and racing well over the Monmouth oval.  This son of Gormley has won 3 of his 4 career starts, and he comes into the race out of a winning Jesus Cruz barn. Clearly, he is stepping way up in class and it seems like a tough task for him stretching out to the 9-furlong distance as well. I do respect his regular rider, Issac Castillo, but for The Haskell they make a switch to Angel Rodriquez, which is a lateral move if anything at all. He has two sharp works after his last race but that’s not enough for me. I am fully expecting him to tire and finish out of the money, either here as my 6th choice, or 7th perhaps 8th at the rear of the field. I’m tossing him from any wagering consideration. 

One Time Willard #3  

Without question, this guy is beyond an outsider and should be tossed from your wagering consideration. He should actually go off around 60-1, but because Trainer John Stevens will have Monmouth Park leading rider Paco Lopez, some people will actually bet this horse. This is a New Jersey Bred horse who’s lone victory is over this same Monmouth oval in a 5 and 1/2 furlong sprint. The jump in class is rather crazy ridiculous, save your money. 

 King Of Hollywood #5  

I can appreciate the connections of Gregory Sacco barn and Jockey Nik Juarez, but this guy took forever to graduate from his maiden ranks, and his win over the track in an allowance race is clearly nothing to write home about.  This is another colt who simply does not fit with all of the accomplished colts in the field. I do appreciate Palace Malice as his sire, and have always backed Nik Juarez when I have visited and played weekend cards at Monmouth, but this is seriously not the spot for this horse. Just go ahead and reduce the field, this guy will be off the board, save your money. 

Geo “attack mode”

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Geo Sette

Geo serves multiple roles at Past the Wire. He is a columnist, handicapper, and analyst. Geo has been fascinated with the Sport of Kings since...

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