3 Favorites Who Shouldn’t Lose This Week

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

While it's always tempting to search for longshots in major stakes races, sometimes the favorites are simply too formidable to play against.

Such cases don't require you to take the opposite approach and sink your entire wagering budget into short-priced favorites—the risk vs. reward isn't always there—but if your handicapping is correct and the favorites truly are unstoppable, keying them in vertical exotics and multi-race wagers can become a lucrative proposition.

There's a lot of high-class racing action taking place around the globe this week, and with the exception of 6-1 shot Cheermeister in Del Mar's Grade 2 San Clemente (I love betting East Coast shippers in West Coast turf races), I don't see many interesting longshots in the graded stakes races. Instead, I see a bevy of deserving favorites who look tough to beat.

With this in mind, I thought I would outline three horses I fully expect to win major races at short prices this Saturday. Consider them as singles for multi-race wagers, or horses to play on top of trifecta and superfecta tickets. With the right wagering strategies, these three favorites could become the keys to a surprisingly profitable weekend.

Enable – King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1)

No horse has ever won Ascot's prestigious 1 1/2-mile King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) three times, but if any horse can defy history and complete the sweep, it's probably Enable.

A sensational daughter of Nathaniel, Enable has been competing with aplomb at the highest level of the sport since 2017. Victorious ten times against Group 1 company, Enable is best known for winning back-to-back renewals of the coveted Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1). But her glittering resume also includes triumphs in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), the 2017 Epsom Oaks (G1), and the 2017 and 2019 editions of the King George.

True, Enable has been defeated in her last two starts, but there were extenuating circumstances. Last fall she finished a gallant second while seeking an unprecedented three-peat in the Arc de Triomphe, possibly done in by very soft ground. And in the July 5 Coral-Eclipse (G1) at Sandown, her 2020 debut, Enable was beaten just 2 1/4 lengths by the highly talented Ghaiyyath while racing over a 1 1/4-mile distance shorter than she prefers.

Enable wasn't at peak fitness for the Coral-Eclipse and should be sharper for the King George, a scary proposition for the three rivals slated to face her on Saturday. Two-time Group 1 winner Japan got within a head of Enable in the Coral-Eclipse, but the mare showed tenacity to edge him out for the runner-up spot and should only extend her superiority while returning to her preferred distance.

In short, I expect Enable to prevail as expected in the King George. Japan and 2019 Epsom Derby (G1) winner Anthony Van Dyck can round out the trifecta in that order.

Sistercharlie – Ballston Spa Stakes (G2)

Sistercharlie might not be quite as accomplished as Enable, but the U.S. champion turf female of 2018 has nevertheless compiled an enviable resume. A seven-time Grade 1 winner who battled to victory in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), Sistercharlie is conditioned by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who is renowned for his success conditioning female grass runners.

Brown has won four of the last five editions of the Ballston Spa, and yet another victory can come courtesy of Sistercharlie. The 6-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie will face just five rivals, and while she hasn't run since finishing third in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, the long layoff shouldn't be a concern. Sistercharlie's last two seasonal debuts produced powerful victories against tough competition in the 2018 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland and the 2019 Diana (G1) at Saratoga.

Starship Jubilee, 3-for-3 this season and winner of the 2019 E. P. Taylor (G1), is a logical candidate to round out the exacta. But Call Me Love—game runner-up in the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay (G3) two starts back—is also worth a look for ultra-hot trainer Christophe Clement, who has gone 9-for-20 (45%) to start the Saratoga meet.

Volatile – Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1)

Could Volatile be a superstar sprinter in the making? He certainly looked like one when annihilating five capable rivals in the 6-furlong Aristides Stakes on June 6 at Churchill Downs. After pressing fast fractions of :21.48 and :44.36, Volatile blew the doors off his pace rivals with a staggering :11.30 fifth furlong, opening up a 3 1/2-length lead even while racing greenly and carrying his head high.

Volatile's greenness can probably be chalked up to inexperience, but then again, I wonder if he was just so full of run he couldn't help but let loose his enthusiasm in some manner. In any case, Volatile settled down for the final furlong and powered clear under a hand ride to win by eight lengths in 1:07.57, just 0.02 shy of the track record.

Needless to say, Volatile's effort received impressive speed figures—a 112 Beyer and a 109 Brisnet Speed rating. Yet this stunning performance can hardly be considered a fluke since Volatile kicked off 2020 with a similarly impressive 7 1/2-length romp in a 6-furlong allowance sprint at Oaklawn Park, earning a 101 Beyer and a 107 Brisnet Speed rating.

Volatile will face a deep field in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, led by Grade 1 winners Whitmore, Firenze Fire, and Mind Control. Of the trio, I prefer Mind Control, who is 2-for-2 at Saratoga with victories in the 2018 Hopeful (G1) and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens (G1) to his credit. But in a race without much pace, I don't expect anyone to run down Volatile, who looms as an overwhelming favorite to make his graded stakes debut a winning one.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like this weekend?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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