By Noel Michaels
Saturday’s 11-race card at Woodbine features five stakes topped by the featured $500,000 Woodbine Oaks. The highly-playable card won’t get the notoriety of Queen’s Plate Day, but nevertheless it is one of the best of handicapping days of the entire Woodbine racing season. Here’s a look:
$175,00 Dance Smartly (G2), fillies & mares 3 and up, 1¼ miles, turf (race 3)
The Dance Smartly is a 1 ¼-mile turf race for fillies & mares which drew a six-horse field and therefore has been placed earlier on the card than the other features. The morning-line favorite is #1 ETOILE, who will be heavily-bet in part because she hails from the Chad Brown barn. Etoile was a Grade 3 winner in France last year but did little running in her North American debut last time when seventh in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita, and at 7-5 she might actually be an underlay in this spot.
Instead of betting the favorite, why not go for a slightly better price with #4 ELIZABETH WAY (2-1), who finally came home to Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield last time and promptly won the Nassau Stakes (G2). She also won the Very One (G3) earlier this year at a longer distance, which makes her the one to beat in this race. Those looking for a price in here might want to take a shot at #2 THEODORA B. (6-1), a multiple stakes-placed turf winner who ships in for trainer Michael Dickinson, who has won with four of his last nine runners switching from synthetic to turf.
$125,000 Bold Venture (G3), 3-year-olds and up, 6 ½ furlongs, synthetic (race 7)
This sprint features perhaps the day’s strongest favorite, #4 PINK LLOYD (4-5), who has won eight of his last nine races including four graded stakes, all at Woodbine. Those looking to bet against this amazingly consistent synthetic sprinter must note, however, that the only defeat he suffered since October, 2018 came in last year’s running of this race. Is this race his kryptonite? Or will he get his revenge for that lone recent loss? Revenge is probable based on the fact that this field does not come up any better than the ones he routinely beats. Those betting on an upset probably might want to look in the direction of #8 WHITE FLAG (3-1), who is untested on a synthetic, but ships in with good turf sprint credentials for red-hot trainer Christophe Clement, is Grade 1-placed at Woodbine (on turf), and is a valid wild card in this spot if he handles the surface.
$150,000 Plate Trial, Canadian 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles, synthetic (race 8)
The Plate Trial is a local prep for the re-scheduled Queen’s Plate – Canada’s Kentucky Derby. The race drew only a six-horse field unfortunately, and is topped by two logical top contenders, #3 CLAYTON (4-5) and #4 HALO AGAIN (9-5). Clayton appears to be the best local hope, having started his career winning 2-of-3 at Woodbine, including a big victory last time in his first stretch out to a route distance. Halo Again ships in for trainer Steve Asmussen with a solid resume that includes a win in the 7-furlong Queenston Stakes at Woodbine last time out, as well as a fourth-place finish in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) going this 1 1/8-mile distance.
Bettors trying to make money on this race couldn’t be blamed for using a substantial exacta box on the two favorites, but instead of doing that, why not take a shot at an upset on the legitimate contender being overlooked in the morning-line odds, and that is #2 DOTTED LINE (12-1). Dotted Line reeled off three synthetic track victories in a row here last fall including two stakes, and then has some excuses for the two losses this year, the first came off a seven-month layoff and the last came against open company with a very solid third-place finish in the Marine Stakes (G3). Ready for a big effort in the third race of the form cycle for trainer Sid Attard.
$175,000 King Edward (G2), 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile, turf (race 9)
The horse to beat in this field of eight is morning-line favorite #5 5ILENT POET (9-5) on the strength of two straight wins this season, including the Connaught Cup (G2) last time out at 7 furlongs. This horse has racked up a record of seven wins and three places in 11 career turf outings, and the distance seems well within his reach. If you are looking for a chink in the armor, however, you will see that this horse’s best distance is actually 7 furlongs, which perhaps makes him beatable in this tough spot. If one of these rivals is to step up and knock off Silent Poet, it will probably be one of the well-connected out-of-town invaders in the field, either #2 MARCH TO THE ARCH (4-1), a Grade 2 turf winner who also won this year’s Sunshine Million Turf for trainer Mark Casse, or #8 DELAWARE (5-2), who was a Group 3 winner in France and will attract a lot of attention for trainer Chad Brown. Out of the aforementioned trio, Silent Poet is probably the most likely winner, while it is March to the Arch who will offer handicappers the best value.
$500,000 Woodbine Oaks, Canadian 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles, synthetic (race 10)
This 10-horse field is a great betting race loaded with solid contenders.
The horse on the rail, #1 CURLIN’S VOYAGE (3-1), seems to have been pointed to this spot and brought up to the race brilliantly by trainer Josie Carroll, who is winning 23 percent clip at the current Woodbine meet. Curlin’s Voyage returned from a six-month layoff to starts ago with a second in a 6-furlong stakes prep race, then followed up with a victory going one step further in the $125,000 Fury Stakes at 7 furlongs. Now this horse is ready for this ideal stretch out to 1 1/8 miles in the third start off the layoff, and looks good here based on her route win last fall in the Ontario Lassie, as well as her second-place finish versus open company in last fall’s Mazarine (G3), which was also at a route of ground on Woodbine’s synthetic main track.
The morning-line favorite in the Oaks is #8 LASTING UNION (5-2), but that horse looks too questionable in this spot based on the fact that she has never been out on a synthetic track, and never been out in a stakes race, just having crushed allowance horses in her last race. Instead of Lasting Union, handicappers could look for some value in this race when seeking horses to pair with Curlin’s Voyage in the exactas and trifectas, by choosing #7 MERVEILLEAX (4-1) and/or #10 INFINITE PATIENCE (6-1). If you like Curlin’s Voyage, Merveilleux makes sense because she came within a head of Curlin’s Voyage in the Ontario Lassie and more recently lost by less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Selene. Blinkers on. Meanwhile, the sky is still the limit for Infinite Patience, who is the pride of Hastings Park where she won all five of her first five career starts including big wins in four stakes. She lost last time in her Woodbine (and synthetic track) debut in the 7-furlong Fury, but she only lost by a length and actually needed that race, which was her first for trainer Lorne Richards off an eight-month layoff. She’ll have a chance to prove her quality in the Woodbine Oaks.
In the feature, bet exacta and trifecta boxes with #8 Lasting Union, #7 Merveilleax, and/or #10 Infinite Patience.
Enjoy a great card of racing and wagering Saturday at Woodbine!