I’ve always enjoyed betting races on synthetic surfaces because it feels like you are fairly rewarded for strong opinions, and in the $175,000 Eclipse Stakes July 4 at Woodbine I’m hoping to profit from that exact scenario.
The Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile race on the Tapeta footings main track drew a field of seven older males, including multiple runners with solid credentials on synthetic surfaces. In fact, each of the seven has won on a synthetic main track.
Mr Ritz (#4) has three wins, three seconds, and one third in seven starts on synthetic tracks, and the 5-year-old by Oasis Dream also has outstanding credentials at this 1 1/16-mile distance with three wins and a pair of seconds in five races. From an Equibase Speed Figure perspective, Mr Ritz has a slight edge on his competition as well and he certainly has a great chance to win the race as the even-money favorite on the morning line.
I’m going to go a different way, however, and try to beat Mr Ritz, who is coming back from an eight-month layoff. Under similar circumstances a year ago, he faded just a bit late in this race and finished second by a nose after leading in deep stretch.
Also, while he has been very good on synthetic main tracks, Mr Ritz has one win in five races on the main track at Woodbine while filling out the trifecta in the others.
I’m also going to play against Avie’s Flatter (#2), a very nice colt who placed in all three Canadian classic races in 2019 but figures to have more support in the betting than he probably deserves.
My top choice for the Eclipse is Uncle Bull (#1), a 4-year-old who won three of six races for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse in 2019 in his first season of racing.
Like Mr Ritz, Uncle Bull returns from a long layoff since a disappointing 12th-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar Nov. 30, 2019. He’s been gelded since that race, which I don’t really view as a major positive or a negative as much as something to consider and factor into the evaluation when handicapping races.
What I like about Uncle Bull is that his lone start on a synthetic track was his best race to date from a speed-figure perspective and it came on the main track at Woodbine at this 1 1/16-mile distance. He’s a fast horse on turf, the surface he made his other five starts on, but the 108 Equibase Speed Figure he earned on the Tapeta at Woodbine is 12 points better than any figure he has earned on the grass.
Uncle Bull has been working steadily and well for Casse, who clicks at 24% when teaming with jockey Kazushi Kimura. My guess is many people will look at the terrible last race in a Grade 1 on turf and discount his chances, but I think Uncle Bull fits in this spot and should offer significant value at near his 6-1 odds on the morning line. I think there is a chance he might even drift up a bit to 7-1 or 8-1.
My main play will be a straight win bet on Uncle Bull, but I’ll also try him on top in a trifecta with Mr Ritz, who I expect will run well, along with Cooler Mike (#5) and Journeyman (#7).
Cooler Mike’s odds could be higher than his 5-1 on the morning line because he comes out of a poor start on grass, but he’s finished in the top three 11 times in 14 starts on synthetic tracks. Journeyman also has success on a synthetic surface with a win and a second on the Polytrack at Arlington International. He’s proved capable of finishing strongly at this distance and his 12-1 odds on the morning line are a huge perk. I feel confident he can compete at this level.
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$20 to win on #1 Uncle Bull ($30)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, eighth race, $30 to win on #1
Exotic Strategy on a $20 Budget
$5 trifecta: 1 with 4,5,7 with 4,5,7 ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, eighth race, $5 trifecta: 1 with 4,5,7 with 4,5,7
Good luck, and enjoy the race!