Homeracing

Speed Horses Could Have Advantage in Amsterdam Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 25th, 2018

There are plenty of reasons why bettors might be drawn to the chances of #3 Engage and #5 Strike Power in Saturday’s $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga.

Their credentials are obvious. Engage won the Futurity Stakes (gr. III) last fall and has never finished out of the exacta in six starts for top trainer Chad Brown; in addition; he finished second in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont last month. Strike Power could only manage an eighth-place effort in the same race, but earlier this year he won the Swale Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in convincing fashion.

However, I’m generally against both Engage and Strike Power in Saturday’s 6 ½-furlong sprint for one reason—they had every chance to capitalize on a tremendously favorable pace setup in the Woody Stephens, yet neither was able to win.

The pace fractions of the Woody Stephens illustrate a race that was perfect for horses closing from off the pace, tactics employed by both Engage and Strike Power. While those two were rating in mid-pack, several lengths off the lead, #2 Promises Fulfilled and #6 World of Trouble were out in front throwing down blazing fractions of :21.46 and :43.68, which is about as fast as you’ll ever see in a sprint race over the Belmont Park main track.

Despite the intensity of the pace, Promises Fulfilled and World of Trouble held on remarkably well through the homestretch to finish third and fourth, separated by just a neck at the wire. World of Trouble, coming off a three-month layoff, ran particularly well while racing wide and making a move to challenge Promises Fulfilled during the second quarter-mile. The fractions of the race were so dramatic that RacingFlow.com assigned the race a Closer Favorability Ratio of 100, signifying that the Woody Stephens fell within the top 1% of races favoring late runners.

So I’m sure you can guess where I’m heading with my analysis of the race. I’m going to assume that the fractions of the Woody Stephens are unlikely to be repeated in the Amsterdam, giving Promises Fulfilled and World of Trouble a chance to turn the tables on Engage. Of the pair, I’ll give a slight edge to World of Trouble for the reasons outlined above, plus the fact that he showed great promise winning the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes by 13 ¾ lengths back in January at Tampa Bay Downs.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$5 exacta: 6 with 2,3 ($10) $4 exacta: 2 with 3,6 ($8) $1 trifecta: 2,6 with 2,3,6 with 2,3,5,6,7 ($12)

Good luck!
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