If you’re already getting excited for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, then you won’t want to miss the $700,000, Grade 2 Suburban Stakes on Saturday, July 6 at Belmont Park.
The Suburban serves as a steppingstone toward the prestigious $6 million Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Since both races are held over 1 ¼ miles (the same distance as the Kentucky Derby), the Suburban is an ideal race for accomplished older horses to test their stamina over North America’s classic distance.
Of course, many of the contenders in the 2019 Suburban have already proven themselves running 1 ¼ miles or farther. Certainly that is the case with expected favorite #1 Catholic Boy, a two-time Grade 1 winner going 1 ¼ miles.
You have to admire Catholic Boy for his versatility. He’s won multiple graded stakes races on both dirt and turf, most notably prevailing by four lengths in the 2018 Travers Stakes going 1 ¼ miles on dirt at Saratoga, a signature triumph that launched him into the racing spotlight.
Catholic Boy was soundly beaten in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic, but following a winter break, he returned a winner in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on turf at Pimlico, rallying from just off the pace to defeat a large field in narrow fashion. Catholic Boy will be returning to dirt for the Suburban, and since he’s gone 2-for-2 in the past while making the switch from turf to dirt, we have to expect he’ll be ready for a big effort on Saturday, especially while making his second start of the season.
But Catholic Boy will be a short price in the wagering, since he’s a widely known and respected runner with a clear-cut affinity for 1 ¼ miles. And it’s worth noting that in terms of Beyer and Brisnet speed figures, he isn’t exactly an overwhelming standout. Remember, Catholic Boy’s best runs last season came against 3-year-olds, and he remains relatively unproven against horses outside his own age group.
That’s why I’m tempted to take a shot against Catholic Boy with #11 Pavel. Yes, the form of this world-traveling 5-year-old isn’t especially flashy, but Pavel has repeatedly shown the ability to step up and run a big race when you least expect it. Remember last summer, when he dominated the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs to emerge as a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Speaking of which, he actually beat Catholic Boy across the finish line in the Classic despite encountering traffic at the top of the stretch.
One reason why I’m excited to play Pavel is because I believe his recent efforts are better than they appear. Two starts back, he finished fourth in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Dubai World Cup halfway across the world in Dubai, but he was beaten just 3 ¼ lengths. And last time out, Pavel faced a terrific field in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap over a one-mile distance well short of his best. Despite these obstacles, Pavel ran an even race to finish sixth, beaten just 6 ¼ lengths by the proven Grade 1 winners Mitole, McKinzie, Thunder Snow, Promises Fulfilled, and Firenze Fire.
Catholic Boy aside, Pavel will be facing much easier competition in the Suburban, and the return to 1 ¼ miles should be beneficial. Just as importantly, he’ll be making his second start since returning from Dubai, which is the same pattern that produced his victory in the 2018 Stephen Foster.
Let’s keep our wagering strategy simple. Since Pavel should offer appealing odds, let’s bet him to win and play him in the exacta with Catholic Boy. If they run 1-2, either order, we should make a solid profit on our $15 investment:
Wagering Strategy on a $15 Budget
$7 to win on #11 Pavel
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 10th race, $7 to win on 11
$5 exacta: 1 with 11
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 10th race, $5 exacta: 1 with 11
$3 exacta: 11 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 10th race, $3 exacta: 11 with 1
Good luck, and enjoy the race!