Betting on horses requires you to have opinions. Some opinions are going to be stronger than others, and some bets will be larger than others. Occasionally, an opinion will be a negative one about a favorite. Other times, the opinion will be a positive one about a non-favorite.
Every so often, a race will feature two heavy co-favorites on whom you will hold an opinion of the strong and negative varieties. If that same race includes a non-favorite that you absolutely love in the spot in question, this might just present what is among the rarest of wagering opportunities.
Saturday’s Personal Ensign at Saratoga is shaping up, at least at this early pre-wagering stage, as the betting opportunity of the year for me. And that is because I am strongly against the two heavy favorites, and I am strongly in the corner of a horse who sits at 5-1 on the morning line.
Let’s start with the favorites- Midnight Bisou and Elate.
With a record of 5 for 5 on the year and two Grade I wins to her credit already, a win on Saturday will put her deeper in the discussion for Horse of the Year. And to be sure, it’s been an impressive campaign. She figures to be favored on Saturday, and the 6/5 morning line seems reasonable.
But she has yet to record a win at this 9 furlong distance, while being undefeated at a distance just 100 yards shorter. Is that something, or is that nothing? I think it’s something. No one can question her ability, but might she be a miler who is so good that she can tack on an extra 100 yards and keep beating them all at 1 1/16th miles? And if she is a miler at heart, is it then understandable that she is winless beyond her undefeated 8.5 furlong speciality? She’s good. Very good. But it is fair to wonder if she will have what it takes to beat this bunch at this distance, especially at the expected price. She’s also 0 for 2 at Saratoga.
Which brings us to Elate.
I am on record as saying that I believe Elate is the most overrated racehorse of the last decade. Is that hyperbole? Eh, maybe. Maybe I could come up with others who were more overrated if I sat around all day and thought about it. But I don’t want to do that. I am happy giving that title to Elate.
Why do I feel this way? Because she never beats anyone of consequence. Sure, Blue Prize and She’s a Julie are honest and solid. But go back through her career PPs. She has never beaten an elite filly or mare. Unless you consider Salty or It Tiz Well to be elite. She was 0 for 3 against Abel Tasman. She is 0 for 2 against Midnight Bisou. Her vanquished foes in her two Grade I wins were not true Grade I fillies or mares. And she is zero for her last three Grade I tries. Additionally, she was odds-on in all of her last four wins.
To me, it just seems like Elate never rises to the occasion against top opponents. To partially quote Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, “when it’s time for the showdown, she won’t be there.”
And this brings me to the girl I like in the Personal Ensign, Wow Cat.
Wow Cat won me over last year in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, when running second to Monomoy Girl. She was off until the end of July, when she clearly needed the race while losing to Golden Award in the Shuvee. But Golden Award had it easy, at least in terms of time, in the Shuvee. Sure, she was battling for the early lead, if you can call a half in :50 and 6 furlongs in almost 1:14 battling. But Wow Cat had to try to gain ground into slow fractions in the Shuvee, and it was too tough a task off the bench, especially considering Golden Award was making her fourth start of the year that day.
It feels to me like Wow Cat is ready to fire a top effort. Yes, she lost in this very race to Elate by almost 10 lengths last year. But that race effectively ended Abel Tasman’s career, and it sent Elate to the sideline for almost seven months. It’s tough to imagine Elate duplicating that effort on Saturday. In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, she hasn’t run that fast since.
If you buy my argument that Midnight Bisou and Elate have major knocks against them, and if you think Wow Cat is ready to fire, I think she is the way to go on Saturday. I don’t really think Coach Rocks is at this level. I respect She’s a Julie, but I don’t think she’s elite in spite of her status as a Grade I winner. And I think last time was the time for Golden Award.
To me, this is a perfect storm of wagering angles. I plan to wager heavily on Wow Cat on Saturday.