Why I'm Betting Switzerland in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 25th, 2018

Nowadays, it’s hard to believe that Switzerland ever had a reputation as a “money burner”—a horse who frequently suffers defeats at short prices.

Indeed, for a time, Switzerland was viewed as the king of money burners. The son of Speightstown showed talent from an early age, but nevertheless managed to lose the first seven starts of his career, including five defeats while favored to win.

But when Switzerland turned four years old at the start of 2018, it was as if a switch has been flipped. Remarkably, the colt has gone undefeated in four starts this year, breaking his maiden in February at Aqueduct before rattling off back-to-back allowance wins at Oaklawn and then crushing a quality field of rivals in the Maryland Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico.

Now #1 Switzerland will face his stiffest test yet when he faces last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) runner-up #4 Imperial Hint in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. A victory in the six-furlong race would complete Switzerland’s transformation from frequent loser into one of the nation’s most talented and accomplished sprinters.

And in my opinion, trainer Steve Asmussen could not have picked a better spot for Switzerland to make his Grade 1 debut. Overall, the field isn’t the toughest, and it’s somewhat lacking in terms of speed horses. Imperial Hint has plenty of speed, but rallied from fourth in a six-horse field to win the True North Stakes (gr. II) last time out. #7 Done Deal likes to race on or near the lead as well, but he’s never run a half-mile faster than :45 1/5 at any track other than Prairie Meadows, which is known for being exceptionally fast.

This could give the speedy Switzerland something of a tactical advantage, especially since he’ll be breaking from the rail and will have every chance to save ground while setting the pace. In addition, the Daily Racing Form recently reported that Imperial Hint had a couple of minor setbacks that caused him to miss some training, so it’s possible that he’s coming into the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at something less than his absolute best.

So my strategy is simple—I’ll play Switzerland on top in the exacta and trifecta while adding Imperial Hint, Done Deal, and #3 Warrior’s Club underneath. In addition, I would consider betting Switzerland to win if he starts at 5-2 or higher.

$5 exacta: 1 with 3,4,7 ($15) $2.5 trifecta: 1 with 3,4,7 with 3,4,7 ($15)

Good luck!