Win and you’re in. It sounds simple in theory. But the winning part will be easier said than done for the 11 fillies set to square off in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.
The 1 1/16-mile race has been gaining prestige in recent years and now offers a “Win and You’re In” qualifying berth to the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. With this bonus prize added to the rich purse, the Cotillion has attracted some of the most talented and accomplished three-year-old fillies in North America.
The 9-5 morning line favorite is understandably #8 Guarana. Conditioned by the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Guarana is undefeated in three starts and showcased her budding brilliance with victories in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes and the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks during the spring and summer.
But could there be a crack in Guarana’s armor? She raced a bit greenly in the homestretch of the Coaching Club American Oaks, ducking out late in the race while leading clearly. And while she’s shown some versatility in terms of running style, winning the Acorn Stakes from a few lengths off a fast pace, two of her victories have come in gate-to-wire fashion.
Guarana’s front-running tendency could prove problematic in the Cotillion, a race that’s absolutely packed with speed horses. The Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner #1 Serengeti Empress knows of only one way to run – fast and furious right from the start – and the same goes for #11 Jaywalk, gate-to-wire winner of the 2018 Grade 1 Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The speedy six-time graded stakes winner #10 Bellafina also tends to set or press the pace, while the longshots #5 Collegeville Girl, #6 Horologist, and #9 Sweet Sami D have also shown a fondness for front-running tactics.
So who can take advantage of this presumably fast and contested pace? How about #3 Street Band? This daughter of Istan might not be a winning machine, but she’s quietly compiled an admirable record this year, highlight by blowout victories in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks and the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks.
Street Band’s Indiana Oaks triumph was eye-catching, since she exuded power and looked like a winner from start to finish, but I was just as impressed by her third-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 17 at Saratoga. Racing over a sloppy, sealed track, Street Band did not receive the cleanest trip. Instead of enjoying a wide, unencumbered rally, she found herself racing between and behind horses for most of the race, a tricky position that forced her to wait in traffic on the far turn.
However, at the top of the stretch, Street Band gamely split horses and seized a brief lead. She remained thoroughly in contention until the eighth pole, after which she weakened slightly to finish third, but under the circumstances I thought Street Band ran a great race.
Street Band will be cutting back significantly in distance for the Cotillion, which should sharpen her finishing speed, and I’m also optimistic she’ll receive a perfect setup rallying into a fast pace. The best part? She’s 8-1 on the morning line, so if she wins, the payoff will be lucrative.
As a result, I don’t see any reason to get too complicated with wagering strategies. If you’re playing on a small budget, just bet Street Band to win and place. But if you have a little extra cash to spend and want to seek a truly memorable payoff, try keying her in the exacta and trifecta with Guarana, Serengeti Empress, Jaywalk, and the improving Horologist, a 15-1 shot with four consecutive victories to her credit.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$5 to win on #3 Street Band
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 to win on #3 Street Band
$5 to place on #3 Street Band
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 to place on #3 Street Band
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$10 to win on #3 Street Band
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $10 to win on #3 Street Band
$4 exacta box: 3,8 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 exacta box 3,8
$1 trifecta: 3,8 with 3,8 with 1,6,11 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $1 trifecta 3,8 with 3,8 with 1,6,11
$1 trifecta: 3,8 with 1,6,11 with 3,8 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $1 trifecta 3,8 with 1,6,11 with 3,8
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Cotillion Stakes from Parx Racing on September 21. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.