How to bet the 2019 Connaught Cup Stakes
#1 Shakhimat might not be the most consistent horse in training, but when he starts in Saturday’s $175,000 Connaught Cup Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, I think he’ll be sitting on a winning performance.The 6-year-old son of Lonhro has long been a classy stakes competitor and has even nabbed a couple of high-profile victories at the graded stakes level, including the 2017 Tropical Turf Stakes (G3) going a mile at Gulfstream Park. While his recent form is uninspiring—he hasn’t won a race since the Tropical Turf—there are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll show improvement in the Connaught Cup.
Shakhimat’s two latest defeats came on the Tapeta track at Woodbine, a surface over which he’s winless in eight starts. His defeat over the Keeneland turf in the Shakertown Stakes (G2) two starts back wasn’t bad—he gained ground late over a distance shorter than his best and finished just two lengths out of third place. Go back four starts, and Shakhimat ran just fine in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming allowance race over the Gulfstream turf course, where he finished third by a length after leading into the stretch.
The Connaught Cup is at seven furlongs on turf, and the cutback in distance could be ideal for Shakhimat. He loves the Woodbine grass course, where he has cracked the trifecta in six of his seven starts, including a game, runner-up effort behind future grade 1 winner Delta Prince in the 2018 King Edward Stakes (G2) at a mile. Shakhimat will also be removing blinkers after wearing them for his last three starts, a positive change.
Since Shakhimat figures to offer decent odds in the betting, I won’t get too aggressive with my wagering. I’ll primarily bet him to win and cover for the possibility of a runner-up effort by keying him in the exacta with #3 Yorkton, #6 Emmaus and #8 Curlin’s Honor.
Yorkton, a speedy frontrunner, finished second in the Nearctic Stakes (G2) over the Woodbine turf in October and warmed up for the Connaught Cup with a prep run over the Tapeta on May 4. Emmaus, previously based in Europe, recorded a runner-up finish behind the capable Therapist in the seven-furlong Elusive Quality Stakes at Belmont on April 27. Curlin’s Honor, never out of the trifecta in five starts sprinting, fired off a big run when he rallied to finish third in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier Stakes (G3) over the Tapeta and has decent back class sprinting on turf.
$12 to win on #1 Shakhimat $2 exacta: 1 with 3,6,8 ($6) $4 exacta: 3,6,8 with 1 ($12)