All races slated to go off between 5 pm and 6 pm EDT.
The Breeders Cup is now in less than three weeks. With the top horses in the world on the sidelines until the big event at Santa Anita on November 2 and 3, one would think that today would be a relatively quiet day in terms of stakes racing. But thanks to a big card at Woodbine in suburban Toronto, which is headed by the Grade 1 Canadian International, this is not the case: we have a good lineup of top-shelf racing to play. And in a wrinkle that we like, the races we'll look at today are all on grass. We expect the turf to be firm everywhere; let’s go.
Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:13 PM ET
Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-old Fillies
A short field of seven goes in the Sands Point. We like the favorite, 5-New and Improved, who starts for trainer Chad Brown. She has run twice in her career: She won her debut, a maiden race at Saratoga in July, very impressively, and then ran a dull fourth in her next race, the Riskaverse Stakes at Belmont Park, in August. We are willing to give her a pass for her last, as it was on a yielding turf course that was probably softer than she likes. On firm grass, which she will get today, we think she handles this field. Look for her moving late: she's got the best finishing kick in the race, and we think that will be the deciding factor. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-New and Improved.
Keeneland, Race 9, 5:30 pm ET
Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-old fillies
Nine fillies drew into the Queen Elizabeth. It's an excellent race. Chad Brown trains the favorite, 3-Cambier Parc, who's 8/5 on the morning line, but we are smitten with a European import, the Irish-bred 5-Castle Lady, a Godolphin filly trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, who won the French 1,000 Guineas at Longchamps in Paris in May. She comes into this race off a layoff, with her last race a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot in June. We think Castle Lady represents the best betting opportunity in some time. Cambier Parc will get bet -- Chad Brown's runners always get bet -- but we think Castle Lady is a superior filly by a significant margin. The top grass horses in Europe are almost without exception better than their American counterparts, and Castle Lady looks to be absolutely top shelf.
We are going to bet her to win, and we hope to all that is holy that we get her 7/2 morning-line odds, because at that price, she is an absolute gift. We will bet her to win, and we will do so enthusiastically and aggressively. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $100 to win on 5-Castle Lady.
Woodbine, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET
Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, 1 1/4 miles, turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This is another terrific race, with an excellent field of ten going to the post. Four European invaders take on six North American-based horses, and, as usual, Team Euro to us looks to be a cut better than the domestic horses. 2-Red Tea and 7-Imperial charm, in particular, have very solid, if somewhat obvious, credentials.
We are going to take a shot in this race with one of the European horses: it's 9-Platane, a 3-year-old filly trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias. She is one of these Euro runners who appears to prefer firmer turf; the best race of her career was a win in the Group 3 Prix Vanteax at Longchamps in April. She has run less well recently, but those races were on softer turf. We think there's a good chance that she moves up -- way up -- on the firm grass that she will get this afternoon at Woodbine. That makes her a contender in our eyes, and at 20-1, there's nothing that a self-respecting handicapper can do but bet her: we will bet her to win and to place. The bets: Woodbine, Race 8, $30 to win and $15 to place on 9-Platane.
Woodbine, Race 9, 5:42 pm ET
Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes, 1 ½ miles, turf, 3 & Up
This race has been a highlight of the fall season for years. The field of the 2019 edition came up short, with only six entrants, but due to a couple of them it's an interesting race to handicap nonetheless.
The top two betting choices, who are both based in Europe, are pretty solid: 1-Ziyad, who's even money on the morning line, and 4-Desert Encounter, who won this race last year, is 2-1. A win by either would not be a surprise.
But we are going against both, and it's because of the expected pace: We don't think there will be any. There are only six horses in the field, and none of them have any early zip, so we see an absolutely paceless race, and this will, we think compromise the chances of the two favorites, as both prefer coming from behind.
The horse we see getting loose on a very, very soft lead is 5-Alounak, a French-bred 4-year-old colt who is based in Germany. We see him on the front end in very, very slow fractions, and we think that is going to make him tough to catch. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Woodbine, Race 9, $15 to win on 9-Alounak.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, enjoy the weekend, and, as always, good luck at the windows.