Monte Man winning the Heitai Stakes - Photo by Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr

Monte Man winning the Heitai Stakes – Photo by Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr

While some handicappers understandably shy away from betting heavy favorites, under the right circumstances, I’m more than happy to back a short-priced contender if I think I can make a nice score in the exotic wagers.

Such is the case in Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint Stakes at Fair Grounds, a six-furlong event that has attracted some of the best Louisiana-bred sprinters from around the country. With ten starters, I suppose anything can happen—this is horse racing, after all!—but I find it difficult to envision a scenario where #3 Monte Man loses this race if he brings anywhere near his A-game.

After all, Monte Man has won his last seven starts dating back to December 2017 and recently returned from a short layoff to win the Heitai Stakes over this track and distance by 2 ¾ lengths. That was an excellent run, and Monte Man was never really challenged—he got out in front, set a fast pace, and pulled away in the homestretch to win decisively.

Monte Man is versatile enough to win from just about anywhere in the pack, but I expect we’ll see him out in front early on, fending off challenges from #1 Divine Bean (runner-up in the Heitai Stakes), #7 Adios Yankee, and perhaps #4 Jockamo’s Song. If a contested pace does unfold, I don’t think it will bother Monte Man, but it could be just enough to allow the late-running three-year-old #2 Givemeaminit to rally and complete the exacta.

Givemeaminit hasn’t competed against Louisiana-breds very often, but the reason is understandable—he’s been too busy competing in ten graded stakes races across the country! His best effort came when he was third by a neck in the 2017 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, but he’s also recorded fourth-place finishes in such important races as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).

I’ve always felt that Givemeaminit is best as a sprinter, and his latest effort—a respectable runner-up finish in a six-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs—did nothing to dispel my belief. Givemeaminit was very competitive against Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds last winter, breaking his maiden by eight lengths and finishing second in the Louisiana Futurity, and the drop in class back to state-bred company might be all he needs to fire off his best run in months.

So what’s my strategy for this race? I’m going to be a bit bold and play a cold exacta, Monte Man over Givemeaminit. The $1 payoff shouldn’t be anything remarkable, but a $30 payoff? Now that could be appealing!

$30 exacta: 3 with 2

Good luck!