The $250,000, Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes annually ranks as one of North America’s most prestigious turf races for fillies and mares. Held over 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park, the Flower Bowl boasts an impressive roster of winners dating back to its inaugural running in 1978, including champions Waya, Just a Game, Soaring Softly, and Lady Eli. As a result, the race serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
As far as horsemen go, no trainer has dominated the Flower Bowl more thoroughly than Chad Brown. The four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer has won the Flower Bowl half a dozen times since 2011, including five of the last six editions.
Unsurprisingly, Brown will hold a strong hand when the 2020 Flower Bowl is contested on Saturday. Three of the seven entrants are trained by Brown, and all three warrant respect as logical contenders for victory.
Cambier Parc (#1) is the most accomplished of the trio. As a 3-year-old in 2019, Cambier Parc ranked among the best of her division, ending the season with victories in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks Presented by The Jockey Club and Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End. A versatile filly capable of winning with any running style, Cambier Parc kicked off 2020 with a runner-up effort in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Canadian Stakes Presented by The Japan Racing Association at Woodbine, beaten four lengths after racing close to a fast pace.
Cambier Parc should be sharper for her second run of the season, and her versatility will be an asset if the early pace is slow. But her past performances hint the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Flower Bowl might be a bit longer than she prefers. One of just two defeats Cambier Parc suffered last season came in the 1 1/4-mile Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, in which she flattened out late to finish third.
A similar question faces Nay Lady Nay (#6), who has never run farther than 1 1/8 miles. A daughter of talented turf sprinter No Nay Never, Nay Lady Nay has won four of her last five starts against stakes company, including the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes and All Along Stakes in 2020. She’s shown a bit more tactical speed this season and picks up multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., but stretching out in distance and jumping into Grade 1 company are both formidable obstacles for Nay Lady Nay to face.
In contrast, the distance shouldn’t be any issue at all for the third Brown trainee, My Sister Nat (#2). Winner of the Grade 3 Waya Stakes racing 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga, My Sister Nat has developed into a highly capable long-distance turf runner with the class to hold her own against tough competition.
My Sister Nat’s one weakness is her lack of early speed. She’s a pure deep closer dependent on a fair pace to set up her late rally, which has cost her on a couple of occasions this year. In the Grade 2 New York Stakes running 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park, My Sister Nat rallied gamely from behind a very slow pace to finish second behind gate-to-wire winner Mean Mary. And in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes at Saratoga, My Sister Nat charged furiously from behind a snail-like early tempo to finish second by a length against the pace-tracking Civil Union (#3).
The good news for My Sister Nat is that there’s a bit more speed entered in the Flower Bowl. Cambier Parc, Civil Union, Beau Belle (#5), and Lovely Lucky (#7) have all shown the ability to race on or near the lead. Assuming the pace is something close to fair, My Sister Nat will be tough to hold off through the stretch. Her acceleration is excellent — she’s always gaining ground at the finish — and hot jockey Jose Ortiz remains in the saddle. Over the last 60 days, Ortiz and Brown have teamed up to win at a 29% rate.
If anyone can upset the Brown applecart, it’s Civil Union, who has recorded three straight victories running 1 1/4 miles for farther. An allowance winner at Saturday’s course and distance back in June, Civil Union is conditioned by Shug McGaughey, the only trainer aside from Brown to win the Flower Bowl in the last six years.
Civil Union isn’t quite as accomplished as the Brown trainees, but as a lightly-raced 5-year-old with just seven starts under her belt, she still has some upside. With her proven ability to race close to slow fractions and finish strongly, Civil Union also boasts a tactical advantage over My Sister Nat, though a quicker pace could negate this edge to some degree.
I recommend playing the trifecta in the Flower Bowl. On top we’ll favor My Sister Nat and Civil Union in equal strength, and we’ll also key them underneath — in other words, we’ll require one of them to win and the other to finish third or better in order to cash a winning ticket.
For the remaining slot, we’ll use Cambier Parc, Nay Lady Nay, and Beau Belle.
Wagering Strategy: Trifectas
$2 trifecta: 2,3 with 2,3 with 1,5,6 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 8th race, $2 trifecta, 2,3 with 2,3 with 1,5,6
$2 trifecta: 2,3 with 1,5,6 with 2,3 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Belmont Park, 8th race, $2 trifecta, 2,3 with 1,5,6 with 2,3
Good luck, and enjoy the race!