Steel Shot Stands Out in Sugar Bowl Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 12th, 2017

This Saturday, Fair Grounds in Louisiana will host an impressive day of racing led by six stakes races held over a variety of distances and surfaces.

One of the more intriguing races, at least from a sporting perspective, is the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes for juveniles. At six furlongs in distance, the race can’t exactly be considered an early prep on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but the race has nevertheless produced a few Derby starters through the years, including Archarcharch in 2011 and Teuflesberg in 2007.

Five horses have been entered in this year’s Sugar Bowl, and on paper the horse to beat is #5 Steel Shot. Trained by Mark Casse, who is off to a sharp 4-for-16 start at the current Fair Grounds meet, Steel Shot began his career with a troubled run at Churchill Downs, in which he suffered a poor start but rallied mildly to finish fourth behind three next-out winners.

Subsequently, Steel Shot ran second after setting the pace in a maiden race going a bit farther than seven furlongs at Keeneland, then cut back to six furlongs and delivered a gate-to-wire win at Churchill Downs, cruising home in front by 2 ¾ lengths while earning a solid 95 BRIS speed figure. A repeat of that effort would make Steel Shot tough to beat in the Sugar Bowl, especially since he’s drawn the far outside post position and figures to work out a perfect trip setting or stalking the pace.

#4 Bourne in Nixa also brings good form into the Sugar Bowl, having broken his maiden at Indiana Grand with a 90 BRIS speed figure before winning a six-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs with a nice rally from off the pace. But under the conditions of the Sugar Bowl, Bourne in Nixa will have to carry 122 pounds, six pounds more than Steel Shot. Furthermore, as a late runner, Bourne in Nixa could be at a disadvantage if the early pace comes up slow.

#3 Land Battle has already run in four stakes races and has placed in three of them, giving him a significant edge in experience over Steel Shot and Bourne in Nixa. He’s also got plenty of early speed having been part of :44-and-change half-mile fractions on several occasions, but in terms of speed figures (his career-best BRIS is an 83) he’ll likely need to improve to be competitive for the win.

For the purpose of multi-race wagers like the Pick 3, I view Steel Shot as a standout and a horse that I would feel confident singling. Finding value in the single-race bets will be trickier, but the trifecta looks feasible to hit on a small ticket:

$10 trifecta: 5 with 3,4 with 3,4 ($20 total cost)

Good luck!