The anatomy of a handicapper

June 14, 2022

Sometimes ya just gotta, Geo Sette calls The Belmont Stakes ice cold

Over the past 5 years or so Geo Sette has made some nice calls at Past the Wire. He has hit his fair share of winners. More than his fair share really. We’ll never forget, nor will those who read his deep dive analysis columns his assault on the Breeders’ Cup in 2018 at Churchill Downs where he tore up race after race.

Geo Sette, hard at work as always

With Geo you can always be sure he has done his homework. He comes prepared and makes sure if you read his thoughts, you are informed. Very informed. Past performances, replays, pedigree work, he does it all diligently.

Geo has his style. He goes into detail on all the horses, and gives them all their due as he sees it. He likes to give his “precise order of finish” and you won’t find many, if any, better examples of his hitting an Ice Cold Triple than The Belmont Stakes this year. Geo won a cool $20,000 or so backing his opinion with an Ice Cold Triple. The triple paid $375.00.

Let’s relive how Geo saw it and called it on Past the Wire for all his readers:

#6 Mo Donegal    

This son of Uncle Mo was my rather decisive top choice. Purchased for a cool $250,000 as a yearling, he’s been a consistent and reliable runner since his debut over this same Belmont oval. He began his career that day as a juvenile with a 3rd place finish and after a slow start, he was forced to be steadied but still had some run in him. He went on to graduate in his next start in a MSW event also at Belmont. It was then he exhibited his first powerful turn of foot.

This tough, hard-hitting colt has stamina in his pedigree through second dam, Island Sand; a fabulous Grade 1 winner, sired by Belmont Stakes’ winner Tabasco Cat. I’ve always been a fan of sire Uncle Mo and grandsire Indian Charlie. Based on the tenacity he has exhibited in all of his races, I just know he will relish the imposing distance of 12 furlongs.

Following his maiden graduation day, he was ambitiously entered in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct where he stretched out to his first 9 furlong test. It was on that day that you could see he was a colt with a world of talent as he came off the rail, swung wide and battled down the stretch vs solid colt Zandon ( who won the Blue Grass Stakes this year) to win by a thrilling nose.  He then started in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, was favored but only ran 3rd after a slow start. To me, that distance wasn’t his best at a mile and 1/16th.  After a few months on the shelf, this guy ran a brilliant race in the Wood Memorial, running down Preakness Stakes’ winner Early Voting. When it seemed his target was home free, he ran with conviction and took care of business.

 It was then time for his start in the Kentucky Derby . He drew the rail and was off slowly. In my opinion he ran a very strong and gutty race. Behind a wall of horses, he was forced 10 wide and sandwiched to his left and right, but split them with a surge of power and kept on running towards the wire. He ended up finishing 5th on Derby Day, just under 4 lengths off the longshot winner Rich Strike.  In defeat he ran a very brave race and I love the fact that his trainer, Todd Pletcher, passed on running in the Preakness for this race.  Of course, Pletcher is no stranger to this race. The multiple Eclipse winning trainer is a three time winner (2017 Tapwrit, 2013 Palace Malice and winning with the filly Rags To Riches as mentioned earlier in 2007). 

 It’s fabulous that jockey Irad Ortiz is back in the saddle. Perhaps no other jockey knows Big Sandy as well as he does and he’s won the Belmont Stakes back in 2016 with Creator.  This colt seems primed for a huge race. If he gets a clean trip and anything close to a moderate pace, he should be thundering down the lane to win, perhaps by several lengths.  He’s an absolute must use on all your exotic tickets as he’s the most probable winner.  I am hoping that others will support   #1 We The People and Derby winner/Cinderella Story # 4 Rich Strike at the windows which will help us collect more money. I do not like the chances of those two colts, and I am expecting them to be over bet.  Mo Donegal is a true fighter, whether inside, outside or needing to split horses, he can get it done. I’m really expecting a strong finish from him.  Get ready to cash your tickets!

# 3 Nest   

This beautiful filly is facing the boys, and she’s my overwhelming 2nd choice in this Belmont field of 8.  Purchased for $350,000 as a yearling, she is bred to make this Belmont distance.  She’s the daughter of Curlin out of a dam by Belmont Winner and 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy.  In my opinion, this filly has the very best pedigree for this race in the field and because she’s facing the boys, she will carry 5 pounds less at 121 pounds, all the colts will carry 126.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has done a fabulous job with her from the very start of her career, never once sprinting, racing in her debut as a juvenile over this same Belmont soil, trouncing her filly opponents by 5 lengths.   She then went on to win the Grade 2 Demoisel and the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland by 8+ lengths. A month later while racing in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, I felt she was full of run, but had to settle for 2nd after a challenging trip.  Her regular rider Irad Ortiz sided with my top choice Mo Donegal, so there’s a rider change to Jose Ortiz his brother, who is also aggressive and talented in the silks ( he won the Belmont in 2017 with Tapwrit).   My top two choices here are stablemates, they have worked morning drills together and they both appear fresh and very fit.  I am seeing this filly racing around 3 to 4 lengths off the pace and I have a strong vision of seeing her and Mo Donegal both firing their best in the final quarter mile of the race.  She’s my 2nd choice and should be used on your exacta, trifecta and superfecta tickets. If she runs her very best and gets a perfect trip, I give her a chance to win in a close finish, especially if Mo Donegal doesn’t fire his very best.   She’s never been out of the money in her 6 career starts ( Stakes races, 3 of which were graded) and I do not expect her to be off the board here, even with the task of beating the boys.

It’s a Todd Pletcher exacta, stablemates to the wire!

Geo Sette

# 2 SkippyLongStocking  

If my loyal readers can remember, I backed this colt as my 2nd choice in the Preakness Stakes underneath my eventual winner Early Voting. I have watched a tremendous amount of film on him as he’s the most experienced colt in the race with 10 career starts.   He was a disappointing 5th in the field of 9 on Preakness Day, but he didn’t run a bad race. I did not like the ride that Junior Alvarado gave him and I’m guessing trainer Saffie Joseph felt the same way as Manny Franco (who won the Belmont aboard Tiz The Law in 2020)  is this colt’s new rider. 

This imposing colt is the son of Exaggerator who won the Preakness and hit the board in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and went on to win the million-dollar Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.  Over his last 5 races, he’s shown continuous improvement as demonstrated in his Beyers (60-79-88-91-94) and he’s got the closing punch needed to finish strongly in this race.  His overall bloodlines are fabulous, bred to be a winner, from his daddy I mentioned above, his grandsire ( Curlin) was Horse of the Year twice, by the dam Twinkling ( War Chant).  He has been barned and has worked over the Belmont surface, a nice moderate breeze to get a feel of Big Sandy.

I am expecting yet another advance in his form and Beyer speed rating. If that happens, I can see this guy hitting the board and making your Trifecta and Superfecta tickets much more promising.  As for him winning the race, he would have to fire his career best while my top two failed to provide theirs, and that’s not very likely.  I respect his connections and his experience and with his overall pedigree, he’s deserving of consideration at a robust price.

Let’s watch some poetry in motion courtesy of NYRA:

Make sure to read, follow and subscribe to Past the Wire and don’t miss Geo’s next column!

Contributing Authors

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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