The $175,000, Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes is a seven-eighths of a mile turf race at Woodbine that has produced some nice upsets in recent years with three of the last five winners paying $16.70 or more for a $2 win bet and an average payout of more than $19.
Only one favorite has won the Connaught Cup in that five-year stretch and that was tepid 3.10-1 favorite Tower of Texas in 2017.
This year’s Connaught Cup drew a field of eight, including 9-5 morning-line favorite Silent Poet (#1) who has a Grade 2 win on this course and at this distance. The 5-year-old Silent Name gelding boasts impeccable credentials with six wins and three seconds in 10 races on turf while also winning two of four races at this distance, including his career-top 111 Equibase Speed Figure when winning the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes last August.
While it would be a surprise to see Silent Poet finish outside of the top three, I’ll try to beat him by playing White Flag (#2) to win.
I expect Silent Poet to be forwardly placed while breaking from the inside post position and I think Gray’s Fable (#8) probably will take the lead or at least press Silent Poet early. I think that will allow White Flag to settle in a nice spot in front of the deep closers as he’s been effective stalking at this seven-eighths distance. A mile is a bit long for him, but he is 2-for-2 at the Connaught Cup distance and enters the race off a sneaky-good fifth in the Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes Presented by America’s Best Racing.
In the Jaipur, he finished only 2 ½ lengths behind winner Oleksandra but was closing willingly. I think the added distance and a decent pace will provide a nice setup for a horse who is arguably the fastest in the race, and I’m hoping maybe his odds edge up to 7-2 or 4-1 from his 3-1 on the morning line.
A win bet on White Flag will be my primary play, but I’m going to try to fill out the trifecta with a price. Two horses I like to outrun their odds are Admiralty Pier (#4) and Blind Ambition (#3).
Admiralty Pier was well beaten in his most recent start when seventh, 19 lengths behind winner Trophy Chaser, in the Grade 3 Challenger Stakes. But that race came on the dirt main track at Tampa Bay Downs and one start prior to that, the English Channel gelding won the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Stakes on the grass. I expect he’ll tuck just in behind the pacesetters and should have fuel in the tank to hang on for a minor share while cutting back from a two-turn race to a turf sprint. The 10-1 odds on the morning-line, however, are the main appeal.
Mark Casse has two runners entered and I landed on Blind Ambition as my second price option to fill out the trifecta. He has been troubled by bad starts in his previous two races and I’m hoping a change back to Patrick Husbands, who guided him to a win on the grass at Woodbine three starts back, will have him more settled in the starting gate and in a better spot early. I think this is his best distance and I think there is value at 8-1 on the morning line. He’s much better than he showed in his lone start this season.
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$20 to win on #2 White Flag ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, seventh race, $20 to win on #2
Exotic Strategy on a $20 Budget
$5 trifecta: 1,2 with 1,2 with 3,4 ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, seventh race, $5 trifecta: 1,2 with 1,2 with 3,4