Dew: Personal Ensign's my betting opportunity of the year

August 23, 2019 09:33am
Dew: Personal Ensign's my betting opportunity of the year
Photo: Annette Jasko/NYRA
Betting on horses requires you to have opinions. Some are going to be stronger than others, and some bets will be larger than others.

Occasionally, an opinion will be a negative one about a favorite. Other times, the opinion will be a positive one about a non-favorite.

Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga is shaping up, at least at this early pre-wagering stage, as the betting opportunity of the year for me. That's because I am in the rare situation in which I'm against the two heavy favorites while strongly in the corner of a horse who sits at 5-1 on the morning line.

Let’s start with those top choices, Midnight Bisou and Elate, in the 1 1/8-mile event on the Travers Stakes (G1) undercard.

With a 5-for-5 record this year and two Grade 1 wins to her credit already, Midnight Bisou will factor in the Horse of the Year discussion with a victory Saturday. She figures to be favored, and the 6-5 morning line seems reasonable.

But Midnight Bisou has yet to record a win at this nine-furlong distance while going undefeated at a distance just 100 yards shorter. Is that something, or is that nothing? I think it’s something.

No one can question Midnight Bisou's ability, but might she be a miler who is so good that she can tack on an extra 100 yards and keep beating them all at 1 1/16th miles? And if she is a miler at heart, is it then understandable that she is winless beyond her undefeated 8.5 furlong speciality?

She’s good. Very good. But it is fair to wonder if she will have what it takes to beat this bunch at this distance, especially at the expected price. Midnight Bisou's also 0-for-2 at Saratoga.

As for Elate, I am on record as saying that I believe she's the most overrated racehorse of the last decade. Is that hyperbole? Eh, maybe. I could come up with others who better fit the bill if I really thought about it. But I don’t want to do that, because I want to  beat Elate here.

She never beats anyone of consequence. Sure, Blue Prize and She’s a Julie are honest and solid. But go back through her career past performances. Elate has never defeated an elite filly or mare, unless you consider Salty or It Tiz Well to be elite.

Elate went 0-for-3 against Abel Tasman. She is 0-for-2 versus Midnight Bisou. Her vanquished foes in her two Grade 1 wins were not true top level fillies or mares. And she is 0-for-3 in her last three Grade 1 tries. Additionally, Elate went off as an odds-on favorite in her last four victories

To me, it just seems like Elate never rises to the occasion against top opponents. To partially quote Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, “When it’s time for the showdown, she won’t be there.”

And this brings me to the contender I like in the Personal Ensign, Wow Cat.

Wow Cat won me over last year in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff when running second to Monomoy Girl. She was off until the end of July, when she clearly needed the race while losing to Golden Award in the Shuvee (G3).

But Golden Award had it easy, at least in terms of time. Sure, she was battling for the early lead, if you can call a half mile in :50 and six furlongs in almost 1:14 battling. But Wow Cat had to try to gain ground into slow fractions in the Shuvee, and it was too tough a task off the bench, especially considering Golden Award was making her fourth start of the year that day.

It feels to me like Wow Cat is ready to fire a top effort. Yes, she lost in this very race to Elate by almost 10 lengths last year. But that race effectively ended Abel Tasman’s career, and it sent Elate to the sideline for almost seven months. It’s tough to imagine Elate duplicating that effort on Saturday. In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, she hasn’t run that fast since.

If you buy my argument that Midnight Bisou and Elate have major knocks against them, and if you think Wow Cat is ready to fire, this is the way to go on Saturday.

I don’t really think Coach Rocks is at this level. I respect She’s a Julie, but I don’t think she’s elite in spite of her status as a Grade 1 winner. And I think last time was the time for Golden Award.

To me, this is a perfect storm of wagering angles. I plan to wager heavily Saturday on Wow Cat.

For more thoughts on racing and handicapping from Justin Dew, who cashed at this year's National Horseplayers Championship, check out

2019 Personal Ensign (G1)


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Meet Justin Dew

Justin Dew founded LoneSpeed in 2018 out of a desire to bring racing fans and bettors together to discuss about how they approach the game. Before that, he contributed to the official Kentucky Derby website and TVG, among other outlets. Oh, and he wrote this bio in third person, too.

Twitter: @justindew

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