COVID-19 has turned the sport of horse racing upside down, as evidenced by the completely restructured nature of 2020 U.S. Triple Crown. The three-race series underwent numerous changes in terms of timing, race order, and even distance; ultimately, the three races produced three different winners.
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In contrast, the Canadian Triple Crown has more or less retained its traditional structure, with the Queen’s Plate Stakes preceding the Prince of Wales Stakes and Breeders’ Stakes over the course of six weeks. The only major change has been the postponement of the entire series by approximately two months, which has allowed the late-developing #8 Mighty Heart to emerge as a dominant force among Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. Indeed, Mighty Heart enters Saturday’s $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine with a shot to become Canada’s first Triple Crown champion since Wando in 2003.
Mighty Heart’s progress has been remarkable. The popular one-eyed colt required three starts to break his maiden, finally nabbing his initial victory in a 1 1/16-mile event on July 11 at Woodbine. Considering the Queen’s Plate was originally slated to be run on June 27, a normal racing season would have seen Mighty Heart come to hand too late to vie for victory in Canada’s signature race.
But by the time the postponed Queen’s Plate rolled around, Mighty Heart was ready to run the race of his life. After finishing third in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race against older rivals, Mighty Heart relished the opportunity to face fellow Canadian-bred sophomores in the Queen’s Plate. Sprinting to the lead under jockey Daisuke Fukumoto, Mighty Heart turned back all challengers at the top of the stretch and powered clear to win by 7 ½ lengths.
Having impressively proven his worth racing 1 ¼ miles over a synthetic Tapeta track, Mighty Heart subsequently displayed an affinity for dirt in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, rallying from fifth place to score by 2 ½ lengths. Both efforts produced excellent Beyer and Brisnet speed figures in the 95-102 range, stamping Mighty Heart as clearly the fastest horse in the Breeders’ Stakes field.
But the Breeders’ Stakes will surely be Might Heart’s stiffest challenge to date. The final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is contested over 1 ½ miles on turf, and while the distance is probably within Mighty Heart’s reach, the surface could be more problematic. In Mighty Heart’s lone grass race to date (a one-mile maiden race at Fair Grounds in March), he failed to properly negotiate the first turn, fell far off the early pace, and never rallied while finishing 11th.
Mighty Heart has come a long way since then, and perhaps he’ll handle turf just fine in the Breeders’ Stakes. But as an even-money favorite on the morning line, there isn’t much value in betting Mighty Heart to win, especially when you have #5 English Conqueror as an intriguing longshot alternative.
From a pedigree perspective, English Conqueror is bred to relish the surface and distance of the Breeders’ Stakes. His sire, English Channel, was a grass champion who counted the 2007 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf among his many important victories. Even better, English Channel has already sired 2017 Breeders’ Stakes winner Channel Maker, a three-time Grade 1 winner with a shot to win the 2020 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
English Conqueror was beaten in his first three starts, but the chestnut gelding took a step forward in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on Sept. 19 at Woodbine. After tracking a slow pace from third place, English Channel rallied resiliently down the homestretch to win a four-way battle for victory, sprinting the final sixteenth of a mile in a sharp :5.80 seconds.
I’m optimistic English Conqueror will show significant improvement while stretching out over 1 ½ miles, making his 12-1 morning line odds highly appealing. One of Woodbine’s leading jockeys, Emma-Jayne Wilson, will retain the mount for trainer Darwin Banach, who wins at a 24% rate with last-out maiden winners.
Bettors playing the Breeders’ Stakes on a small budget should consider betting English Conqueror to win – even a $10 bet could return well in excess of $100 if English Conqueror reaches the winner’s circle.
But if you wish to seek an even bigger score, why not play English Conqueror on top in the trifecta? Mighty Heart is a logical contender to finish second or third, but we won’t rely on him exclusively. Instead, we’ll spread deep with Prince of Wales runner-up #3 Clayton, Sunday Silence Stakes winner #7 Deviant, Queen’s Plate runner-up #9 Belichick, Elgin Stakes winner #11 Told It All, and turf maiden winner #12 Muskoka Giant.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 to win on #5 English Conqueror
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $10 to win on 5
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$12 to win on #5 English Conqueror
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $12 to win on 5
$0.60 trifecta: 5 with 3,7,8,9,11,12 with 3,7,8,9,11,12 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 10th race, $0.60 trifecta, 5 with 3,7,8,9,11,12 with 3,7,8,9,11,12
Good luck, and enjoy the race!