Woodbine: Spot plays for the Marine, Selene

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 24th, 2020

The Kentucky Derby (G1) isn’t the only historic race postponed because of COVID-19. The Queen’s Plate S. at Woodbine — Canada’s equivalent to the Kentucky Derby — has been delayed from June 27 until Sept. 12.

Several key prep races for the Queen’s Plate have likewise been postponed, which means the upcoming Saturday card at Woodbine bears close watching. The 1 1/16-mile Marine (G3) for 3-year-olds and the 1 1/16-mile Selene (G3) for 3-year-old fillies could both produce starters for the Queen’s Plate, and the afternoon action figures to be fierce, with a bevy of quality stakes performers scheduled to face off.

Let’s follow along with a handful of spot plays.

Race 3: Marine (G3, 2:03 p.m. ET)

You can bet #7 Shirl’s Speight (6-5) will receive plenty of support in the Marine.

Nominated to the Triple Crown before he ever ran a race, the son of Speightstown debuted in a 7-furlong sprint over the Woodbine turf course July 4 and absolutely obliterated his rivals. With Rafael Hernandez in the saddle, Shirl’s Speight carved out fractions of :23.02, :45.38, and 1:08.24, then pulled away under no urging to win by eight lengths in the blazing time of 1:19.97.

But Shirl’s Speight will face several new obstacles in the Marine. He’ll stretch out in distance, switch to the synthetic Tapeta track, and face winners for the first time. Perhaps his raw talent will overcome these obstacles, but at 6-5, he doesn’t offer much value.

#1 Lucky Curlin (3-1) is an appealing alternative. Trained by Mark Casse, Lucky Curlin failed to cross the wire first in his initial eight starts on dirt and turf, but he hit the board six times against future graded stakes winners By Your Side, Basin, and Enforceable, among others.

The transition to the Woodbine Tapeta made all the difference for Lucky Curlin, who rallied to win a 7-furlong allowance sprint June 14. He has trained sharply since and should appreciate the chance to stretch back out around two turns.

If a fast pace unfolds — and there’s plenty of speed in the Marine field — Lucky Curlin can rally to spring a surprise.

$15 to win on #1 Lucky Curlin
$3 trifecta: 1 with 7 with 3,4,6 ($9)
$2 trifecta: 1 with 3,4,6 with 7 ($6)
Total: $30

Race 8: Selene (G3, 4:53 p.m. ET)

#1 Owlette (9-5) is the most accomplished filly in the Serene, with a trio of frontrunning sprint stakes wins at Woodbine. But the daughter of Frac Daddy weakened to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean S. at Woodbine during the fall, which was her lone start around two turns, so I question whether this Wesley Ward trainee has the stamina to handle 1 1/16 miles against tougher competition.

#7 Merveilleux (8-5) figures to be formidable over the Selene distance. The runner-up by narrow margins in the Princess Elizabeth S. and Ontario Lassie S. over this track and distance last year, Merveilleux kicked off 2020 with a pace-tracking victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Woodbine. High-percentage jockey Rafael Hernandez retains the mount for trainer Kevin Attard, who wins at a 23% rate in graded stakes.

Let’s play Merveilleux on top of a trifecta, with Owlette and Casse trainees #4 Diamond Sparkles (6-1), #5 American Tap (7-2), and #6 Two Sixty (12-1) underneath. Since jockey Kazushi Kimura is named to ride both Diamond Sparkles and American Tap, it’s possible one or the other will scratch.

$3 trifecta: 7 with 1,4,5,6 with 1,4,5,6 ($36)

Good luck!