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
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.
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
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.