Sunday’s featured race at Woodbine is the Nijinsky (G2), a $175,000 turf affair going 1 1/2 miles with a field of eight. The favorite is the speedy multiple graded stakes-winning front-runner Tiz a Slam and whether or not he’s beatable seems like it will hinge on whether he gets challenged up front on the pace. If it is a contentious and solid pace, the potential exists for an upset. If not, Tiz a Slam should do what he does best recorded a wire-to-wire win.
Here’s a brief look at the Nijinsky field:
PUMPKIN RUMBLE (#1) (4-1) really got good and came into his own last fall at Woodbine on the synthetic and came back off the winter layoff last time with a solid race, finishing third in the Dominion Day (G3) back on Tapeta. Now switches gears back onto the lawn and has run well over the course and distance, finishing second in last year’s Singspiel (G3). Pumpkin Rumble owns four career turf wins and more earnings on the grass than synthetic, so it would be a mistake to ignore this horse today based on the surface switch. Crusty veteran can run and is ready to roll in his second race off the layoff.
ARTHUR KITT (#2) (15-1) is a three-year-old shipping from England who finds a tough spot against salty older horses and solid veterans. Looked like a promising two-year-old winner last year at Royal Ascot but has not won ever since then, and he doesn’t seem to have trained on as a three-year-old. Picked out this spot for its 1 ½-mile distance and has a good pressing/stalking running style that fits. However, he’ll need a big effort in order to ship in and handle this caliber of older horses.
SIR SALIB (#3) (8-1) won his Canadian debut two races ago for trainer Kevin Attard and then stepped up in class for the first time ever last time out in the Singspiel (G3), turning in a solid effort where he was not embarrassed finishing third by less than three lengths. Chased an agonizingly slow pace last time to no avail, and his chances for improvement here today hinge on same pace contentiousness up front.
SOUPER TAPIT (#4) (3-1) exits a main track Grade 2 win here at 1 1/16 miles and this will be an entirely different kind of challenge at 1 1/2 miles on the grass. Primarily a dirt horse in this career until that big switch to Woodbine’s Tapeta, Souper Tapit essentially has proven throughout his career that he can run on anything. The question really is whether or not he is as good on turf as on synthetic (or dirt), and unlike with Pumpkin Rumble, the answer so far has been “no.” Also must prove that this 1 1/2-mile distance is his cup of tea and the odds won’t provide any value hailing from the barn of Mark Casse.
BOURBON RESOLUTION (#5) (10-1) drew post 12 of 13 last time out in the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill and never got into the race en route to an eighth-place finish in a tough field. This competition might not be as difficult, but the assignment might prove to be even tougher given today’s distance of 1 1/2 miles, uncharted territory for him. Plus, he’s a late runner that does not project to get a good pace set-up in this race.
TIZ A SLAM (#6) (8-5) went wire-to-wire to win the local prep (1 1/2-mile Singspiel) and also captured the 1 1/2-mile Louisville (G3) at Churchill Downs wire-to-wire. Owns a 4-for-8 record on the Woodbine turf course and looms the defending champion in this race. If he gets beat in this race, it’s likely that his downfall will be pace pressure pace since Tiz a Slam does his best running with easy leads. And, he is may not get that scenario today due to the presence of speedy Dark Templar directly to the outside. Deserving favorite certainly could win, but could also get cooked up front and go down in flames as a result.
DARK TEMPLAR (#7) (20-1) switched to the turf for the first time two races ago at Monmouth Park, speeding to the lead at 1 1/16 miles and leading all the way. He exits a victory in an off-the-turf spot at Laurel and stretches out to 1 1/2-miles for the first time. It looks like an extraordinarily difficult spot with a more accomplished speed horse to the inside (Tiz a Slam) and while Dark Templar seemed to have improved when adding blinkers three races ago, he takes the blinkers off today. Tough to envision him winning, but he’s the key to the race. If he runs with Tiz a Slam, Dark Templar could compromise the favorite’s chances. If he doesn’t send, it will probably result in an easy wire-wire win for Tiz a Slam.
AVIE’S MESA (#8) (6-1) chased Tiz a Slam all the way around the track last time out in the Singspiel to be second best. Seems to be taking turns getting beat by the principal contenders in this field, with recent losses also against Souper Tapit and Pumpkin Rumble. Hoping for a dream stalking trip if a fast-paced battle up front sets up on the lead between Dark Templar and Tiz a Slam.
Tiz a Slam is the horse to beat at short odds, but it’s difficult to rely on that horse by keying him alone on top due to the presence of another speed horse in Dark Templar. The two horses that finished right behind after chasing a loose Tiz a Slam through glacier-slow fractions last time, Sir Salib and Avie’s Mesa, could turn the tables this time, and the veteran hard-knocker Pumpkin Rumble could very well turn out to be the horse to beat and should be bet accordingly.
Bet the race covering both possibilities, 1) Tiz a Slam gets loose and goes all the way, or 2) Tiz a Slam gets cooked up front and sets it up for an upset.
In scenario No. 1, key #6 Tiz a Slam in the trifectas over #1 Pumpkin Rumble, #3 Sir Salib, and #8 Avie’s Mesa.
In scenario No, 2, play exacta boxes with #1 Pumpkin Rumble, #3 Sir Salib, and #8 Avie’s Mesa.
$2 Exacta Box 1, 3, 8 = $12
$1 Trifecta key 6 / 1, 3, 8 / 1, 3, 8 = $6