The Grade 1, $1-million Longines Sword Dancer Stakes is one of the highlights of Saturday’s monster Travers Stakes day card at Saratoga Race Course.
The race offers the winner a guaranteed starting spot in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf as part of the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.
This year’s edition features the winner of last year’s Sword Dancer and, arguably, the best older turf male in the world in Flintshire.
A career earner of nearly $8.3-million in his career, Flintshire didn’t just win last year’s Sword Dancer — he dominated. In winning the race on this same Saratoga turf course by 2 ½ lengths, Flintshire posted his highest career Beyer Speed Figure (114) and the highest Equibase Speed Figure (132) of 2015. Just to confirm that the effort was no fluke, Flintshire returned to Saratoga earlier in this year’s meet and won the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes while geared down with jockey Javier Castellano standing in his irons, turning back and more or less getting a good laugh at the overmatched competition.
The only issue with Flintshire is that he’s impossible to make a straight win bet on. On Saturday, he’ll once again go off at odds that would get you back close to a dime on the dollar. One strategy that has been a good one in recent starts is making a larger exacta bet with Flintshire on top and another horse underneath.
On Belmont Stakes day, Ironicus rounded out a solid $18.20 exacta for $2 in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes. In the Bowling Green, Flintshire over Grand Tito paid $5.70 for $2. It was less than 2-1 but it was better than the 1-9 that bettors were getting on a straight win bet.
So, the question is: who will round out the exacta this time? While Grand Tito will be a deserving second choice, I’m going to try to beat him out of the place spot with a longer price. Grand Tito was valiant in defeat last out, working hard to hold on for second behind Flintshire, but he enjoyed a soft and uncontested lead throughout most of the race.
With the presence of Roman Approval in the Sword Dancer, Grand Tito will either face more pace pressure up front or he’ll be taken off the pace and stalk Roman Approval. I’m going to project the latter scenario as being more likely.
I think that Roman Approval may be able to go slower up front than he did in his most recent start, when he was beaten by returning opponent Money Multiplier. Two races ago, he was beaten by just over a length by Kasaqui, who returned to finish a close second in the Grade 1 Arlington Million Stakes.
Roman Approval is 20-1 on the morning line and projects to go off somewhere in that range. However, STATS Race Lens has Roman Approval’s “True Odds” at 10-1, indicating he’ll be an overlay at anything near 20-1. The exacta probables will also justify a strong Flintshire-Roman Approval bet.
Suggested bet: $20 exacta #6 Flintshire over #3 Roman Approval