Keeneland: Best exotic wagers in the Sycamore Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 14th, 2020

Long-distance turf races in North America tend to be wide-open events. Only occasionally does a clearly dominant runner emerge. Most of the time, the top older turf horses just take turns beating each other.

At first glance, Thursday’s $150,000 Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland seems like the type of race to produce a longshot winner. Ten horses have been entered in the 1 1/2-mile event, and most have struggled to produce consistent victories at the graded level.

But take a closer look, and #6 Aquaphobia (5-2) becomes appealing as a potential standout — the type of horse we can build an enticing exotic wager around.

Trained by Mike Maker, who excels with long-distance turf runners, Aquaphobia spent the majority of his career racing with modest success as a miler. But since he was claimed by Maker in January, the 7-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway has resurrected his career with a stretch out in distance.

Aquaphobia reached his peak with a victory in the July 18 United Nations (G1), a 1 3/8-mile test at Monmouth Park. After he settled a few lengths behind modest early fractions, Aquaphobia rallied with determination to score by a length over the stakes-winning pacesetter Paret, with next-out Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) winner Arklow among his beaten rivals.

Aquaphobia subsequently faltered to third place in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga, but he was compromised by racing off the pace over soft ground. A return to firm turf in the Sycamore should send Aquaphobia right back to the winner’s circle.

Rather than get creative, we’ll single Aquaphobia on top in the trifecta. Underneath, we’ll emphasize multiple Group 1-placed European raider #10 Ziyad (5-2), who placed third by less than a length in the 2019 Canadian International (G1) racing 1 1/2 miles at Woodbine. A frontrunning trip could be on the horizon in his first start for trainer Graham Motion, who has given Manny Franco (a skilled rider of speed horses) the mount.

#1 Postulation (15-1), #2 Red Knight (3-1), #3 He’s No Lemon (15-1), #5 Big Agenda (10-1), #7 North Dakota (10-1), and #8 Morning Stride (20-1) will round out our tickets.

$3 trifecta: 6 with 10 with 1,2,3,5,7,8 ($18)
$2 trifecta: 6 with 1,2,3,5,7,8 with 10 ($12)
Total: $30

Good luck!