The $500,000, Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Oct. 6 at Keeneland drew a small, but superb field of five fillies and mares.
While the small field could make it challenging to cash a big ticket, from a sporting perspective, you’d be hard-pressed to find a higher-quality race anywhere in the country this weekend.
Four Grade 1 winners plus a Grade 3 winner will contest the 1 1/8-mile Spinster, which offers a “Win and You’re In” qualifying berth to the Nov. 2 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.
With so much on the line, the Spinster will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 4:30 p.m. ET — be sure to tune in and watch!
At first glance, you can make a case for every horse in the Spinster field. Dunbar Road (#1) is a rising star among 3-year-old fillies, decisively winning the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes and Grade 1 Alabama Stakes during a productive summer campaign. In the Alabama, she easily defeated Street Band, who came back to win the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes in her next start.
Then there’s Blue Prize (#2), who prevailed in the 2018 Spinster despite ducking out sharply in the homestretch. A consistent 6-year-old daughter of Pure Prize, Blue Prize remains in sharp form this year and enters off a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Summer Colony Stakes at Saratoga.
Vexatious (#3), runner-up by a neck in the Summer Colony, has been campaigned primarily on turf, but the switch to dirt for the Summer Colony enabled her to post a career-best 103 Brisnet Speed Figure. That shouldn’t be surprising since Vexatious is a full-sister to 2016 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin and 2014 Preakness Stakes third-place finisher Creative Cause — Vexatious has plenty of dirt breeding.
Even She’s a Julie (#4) has her merits. Although she lost three straight races over the summer, She’s a Julie hit the board on every occasion and easily defeated Blue Prize in the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs during the spring.
But despite the presence of all these high-quality fillies and mares, I’m confident Elate (#5) will have no difficulty reaching the winner’s circle on Sunday. On her best day, this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is simply at another level compared with her four Spinster opponents. When finishing second by a nose to Midnight Bisou in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes on Aug. 24 at Saratoga, Elate pulled 8 ¾ lengths clear of She’s a Julie. And when romping to victory in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 13 at Delaware Park, Elate left Blue Prize 4 ½ lengths behind while coasting to the finish.
As I noted earlier this week when using history to handicap the Spinster Stakes, Elate perfectly matches the historical profile of a typical Spinster winner. And as well as Elate performed in the Personal Ensign, coming up a nose short against division leader Midnight Bisou, I believe Elate’s effort was even more impressive than it appears.
On the day of the Personal Ensign, the inside portion of the main track at Saratoga was decidedly “dead” — slow and tiring compared with the rest of the track. When Elate seized a clear lead coming off the far turn, she unfortunately drifted down toward the rail, and racing over the slower part of the track very likely contributed to her weakening in the final strides to be caught by Midnight Bisou.
Assuming Elate encounters a fair track on Sunday, I expect her to score a convincing victory in the Spinster. That would be good news for racing fans, because trainer Bill Mott has indicated Elate could face males in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic if she runs well in the Spinster, an exciting proposition that would add a great deal of intrigue to the Breeders’ Cup.
So let’s key Elate on top in our wagers, requiring her to win in order to cash a ticket. If you want to keep your wagers inexpensive and simple, a win bet is an obvious choice, though not a particularly rewarding one since Elate will be the favorite. If you want to shoot for a bigger score, I suggest playing a trifecta with Elate on top and Blue Prize and Dunbar Road underneath.
Wagering Strategy A
$20 to win on #5 Elate
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $20 to win on 5
Wagering Strategy B
$10 trifecta: 5 with 1,2 with 1,2 ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $10 trifecta 5 with 1,2 with 1,2
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with Fall Stars Weekend from Keeneland on October 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and October 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.