Keying Longshot Savannah Belle in the Dowager Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 19th, 2018

In handicapping Sunday’s $125,000 Rood & Riddle Dowager Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, I find it hard to have a great deal of confidence in any of the ten starters.

Actually, it’s hard to even predict who will be favored in this 1 ½-mile turf race, because the most accomplished runners on paper aren’t very consistent. The well-bred #10 Vexatious wasn’t disgraced when finishing seventh against males in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. I) last time out, but she’s won just two of her twelve starts overall and is 1-for-4 on turf. #5 Daring Duchess is a three-time listed stakes winner with a solid record going 1 ½ miles, but she’s generally a need-the-lead type and has been known to misfire when beaten to the lead or forced into a fast pace.

Furthermore, the combined lifetime record of the ten entrants is just 36-for-189, and that includes seven victories from #7 Beach Flower, who is predominantly a dirt runner with a 0-for-5 record on grass. In other words, none of them are very frequent winners.

Taking all of this together, I’m inclined to look for a longshot in the Dowager, since it doesn’t appear that a monstrous effort will be required to win. The horse that interests me most is #3 Savannah Belle, a daughter of Discreetly Mine trained by Brian Lynch. A former claimer, Savannah Belle has shown slow but steady improvement this year, and her rise in class has coincided with stretching out in distance. Arguably her best effort to date came when she finished second in the 1 ½-mile River Memories Stakes at Belmont behind the Chad Brown-trained Homeland Security.

In her most recent start, Savannah Belle was compromised by an incredibly slow pace while finishing fifth in the 1 3/8-mile Glens Fall Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga. The fractions were so slow that RacingFlow.com assigned the race a Closer Favorability Ratio (CFR) of 1, the most speed-favoring rating on their 1-to-100 scale.

Two other Glens Fall starters that were affected by the slow pace—runner-up Santa Monica and fourth-place finisher Onthemoonagain—have come back to place in Grade 1 company, hinting that the race was strong overall. Under the circumstances, I think Savannah Belle’s fifth-place effort was quite respectable, and with a better setup in the Dowager, I think she can step up her game and challenge for victory.

I’ll bet Savannah Belle to win and place and also key her in the exacta with Vexatious and Daring Duchess:

$8 to win/place on #3 Savannah Belle ($16) $2 exacta: 3 with 5,10 ($4) $2 exacta: 5,10 with 3 ($4)

Good luck!