Keeneland: Value plays for the Dowager Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 17th, 2020

Six-horse fields aren’t typically viewed as difficult to handicap, but Sunday’s $125,000 Dowager (G3) at Keeneland is clearly an exception.

Held over 1 1/2 miles on turf, the Dowager lacks anything resembling a clear pacesetter. The majority of the fillies and mares in this competitive heat prefer to rally from behind. Only two entrants—#2 Blame Debbie (2-1) and #4 Always Shopping (5-2)—have ever shown any particular interest in racing on the front end. Yet both have done their best running from off the pace, so there’s no telling how they’ll respond if forced to adopt front-running tactics.

Further muddling the picture is the fact the majority of the Dowager contestants have never won—or even run—over 1 1/2 miles. #6 Naomi Broadway (10-1) did win the Grande Premio Zelia Gonzaga Peixoto de Castro (G1) over 1 1/2 miles in her native Brazil, but it’s unclear how that form will translate to racing at Keeneland. In the U.S., Naomi Broadway passed tired rivals to finish third by 11 1/4 lengths in 1-mile allowance race at Indiana Grand, earning an unremarkable 77 Brisnet Speed rating.

In short, I’m reluctant to favor short-priced runners in the Dowager. This race seems ripe for an upset winner, so I’ll look for value plays instead while focusing my attention on #1 With Dignity (10-1).

Trained by Ian Wilkes, With Dignity has never run farther than 1 1/16 miles, and she’s spent the majority of her career racing on dirt. Last time out she finished seventh in a tough renewal of the La Troienne (G1), beaten 11 3/4 lengths by champion Monomoy Girl.

With Dignity will face easier competition in the Dowager, and switching to turf offers potential for improvement. She wasn’t disgraced in her lone grass run last season, rallying from behind slow fractions to finish fifth in the 1-mile Indiana Grand S. And as a daughter of budding stamina influence Declaration of War out of a mare by Seeking the Gold, With Dignity is bred to relish stretching out over 1 1/2 miles.

Assuming her 10-1 morning line odds hold up, I’ll take a shot betting With Dignity to win. I’ll also key her in the exacta with Blame Debbie and Always Shopping.

$6 to win on #1 With Dignity
$2 exacta: 1 with 2,4 ($4)
$5 exacta: 2,4 with 1 ($10)
Total: $20

Good luck!