We’ve got several intriguing stakes races around the country this weekend. Given that schedule, we’ll bounce around a few different tracks and offer betting strategies for each of these races.
Some include a few of the most well-known horses in training, while others offer opportunities to find value. It’s a fun slate, so let’s dive in.
Don’t overthink the Fleur de Lis
The Grade 2 Fleur de Lis is one of two graded stakes Saturday at Churchill Downs (more on the other one later). It attracted just five horses, and typically, a field that size doesn’t foreshadow value. However, if the morning line is correct, I think I’ve found some.
Two starts ago, No. 4 Pauline’s Pearl ran down No. 5 Shedaresthedevil in the Grade 1 La Troienne. She also beat Shedaresthedevil three back in the Grade 2 Azeri at Oaklawn. This raises the question: Why is Pauline’s Pearl 5-2 when Shedaresthedevil is 9-5?
The answer comes in her last-out effort in the Shawnee, where Pauline’s Pearl threw in a clunker as the 2-5 favorite. I think that race was too poor to be true. Joel Rosario hops back aboard for Steve Asmussen, and between Shedaresthedevil and No. 1 Super Quick, I think she’ll have a ton of pace to chase.
Pauline’s Pearl has beaten Shedaresthedevil on the square twice in as many 2022 meetings. If she does it again, I think she’ll do so at an overlaid price.
- $20 win: 4
Taking a stand in the Stephen Foster
The Grade 2 Stephen Foster has attracted a few of the top older male horses in training. Most of the betting money will likely go to No. 3 Olympiad and No. 6 Mandaloun. The former is 4-for-4 since stretching out to two turns, while the latter returns to the scene of his 2021 Kentucky Derby win.
However, I’d caution you against wagering as though it’s a two-horse race. While I like one of these horses very much, I’m dead set against the other.
Olympiad has emerged as a top-tier older horse. His efforts of late have been outstanding, including an easy score in the Grade 2 Alysheba over this track. When Bill Mott gets older horses on the right track, they tend to stay there, and I think he’ll be very, very tough.
Mandaloun, however, makes his first start since a failed trip to Saudi Arabia over the winter. His best race could win this, but is it rational to expect that effort at a pretty short price? I’m going to look elsewhere underneath, and if he beats me, he beats me.
I’ll use No. 2 Americanrevolution and No. 5 Proxy underneath in exactas. The former probably needed a race when fourth at even money earlier this month, while the latter is a hard-knocking closer that could benefit from a solid pace.
- $15 win: 3
- $3 exactas: 3 with 2, 5
Extracting value in the Princess Rooney
Once a main race on Florida’s annual Summit of Speed program, the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park remains a top-tier event for older female sprinters. Last year’s winner went on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and she’s back.
No. 5 Ce Ce looms large here. They’ve tried her going longer, and while she’s reasonably effective in those spots, this seven-furlong route is probably her best trip. She’s been working well for trainer Michael McCarthy, and her best race beats these pretty easily.
I find it much easier, however, to take a stance against the second choice. No. 3 Glass Ceiling has run well this year, but her best efforts have come over Aqueduct’s quirky surface. Form shown there doesn’t always travel, and 7-2 is way too short.
I’ll key Ce Ce on top of exactas with two bigger prices. No. 1 Spirit Wind has won three in a row and is an intriguing prospect, while No. 2 Allworthy ran very well cutting back in distance last time and seems to be going the right way for Saffie Joseph.
- $10 exactas: 5 with 1, 2
An 8-1 price play in the Oak Tree Sprint
We’ll finish up at Pleasanton, which hosts one of its biggest races of the Alameda County Fair season Saturday. The Oak Tree Sprint has drawn a field of nine, and I think a bigger price is very, very live.
No. 4 Psycho Dar has been around a while, but his running style has changed since coming to Northern California. Once a front-runner, he’s turned into a closer, and that should help him immensely here. This race has drawn a lot of early speed, which produces a race shape that’s friendly to what this 7-year-old gelding wants to do. The faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be.
In addition to a win bet, I’ll box small exactas keying Psycho Dar with No. 1 Howbeit and No. 3 Darnquick. The former hasn’t run in 10 months but has efforts from 2021 that show he can win. The latter, meanwhile, dumped his jockey earlier in the meet but gets wheeled right back, which I see as a sign of confidence.
- $10 win: 4
- $3 exacta key box: 4 with 1, 3