How I'm betting the Woodbine Mile and Pocahontas Stakes
Backing a horse eligible for a first-level allowance in a Grade 1 typically doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but #10 LANCASTER BOMBER (9-2) can be the exception in Saturday's C$800,000 Woodbine Mile (G1).
Having beat all save Oscar Performance in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), North American racing observers have long been aware of the three-year-old's relative class. He's enhanced his reputation this year in Europe, but simply hasn't been lucky in reaching the winner's circle.
The two best three-year-old colt milers in Europe this year have been Churchill and Barney Roy, and Lancaster Bomber ran terrific races against them in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and St James's Palace (G1). Fourth by little more than a length at Newmarket when Churchill and Barney Roy ran one-two, Lancaster Bomber was second, one length behind Barney Roy, in the Royal Ascot fixture when Churchill was up the track. Churchill has not fared well in the interim while Barney Roy turned in gallant but losing efforts in a pair of 1 1/4-mile Group 1s, but both remain strong measuring sticks.
Now, Lancaster Bomber has also thrown in major duds in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and Sussex (G1), but I'll chalk up both defeats to soft footing he's never really handled. The ground at Goodwood for the Sussex was particularly testing and not even losing favorite Ribchester handled it all that well.
With firmer conditions expected in Toronto, I'll be backing Lancaster Bomber in the Win pool and keying him on top of Exactas over the following horses:
#1 WORLD APPROVAL (7-2) couldn't be doing better. Although zero-for-two over this course, he probably won't be playing the role of pacesetter as he did in his two losses going longer last year. The main knock is that he's run his best races the last couple seasons on less-than-firm ground, conditions he's not expected to see Saturday.
#2 TOWER OF TEXAS (12-1) put a minor scare into the fabulous Tepin in this race a year ago, and his local form has been steady since then. A shaky proposition for the win given his 1-3-2 mark in his last seven appearances over this course, he's nonetheless hard to dismiss for the lower rungs of the exotics.
In addition to World Approval, trainer Mark Casse has another solid-looking contender in #7 CONQUEST PANTHERA (12-1), who's two-for-two over the Woodbine turf following a win in last month's Play the King (G2) despite in-race trouble. Lightly-raced for a five-year-old, he's also entering in peak form.
I like Casse's chances more in Saturday's $200,000 Pocahontas (G2), which concludes a terrific 11-race card at Churchill Downs. The two-year-old filly #3 SNOWFIRE (9-2) was a disappointing favorite in the Schuylerville (G3) on opening day of Saratoga, and it was a precursor to a frustrating meet for the stable that wound up with an 85-6-12-15 mark at The Spa.
This 1 1/16-mile race looks like a good spot for the daughter of Tapit to rebound. Her four-length debut win over the track in late June was dazzling, and the stretch out obviously shouldn't be an issue. In addition to Tapit, she's out of Upperline, who twice won over 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland.
Snowfire is the Win play in this kick-off to the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.