It’s one of the most important races of the 2023 Canadian racing season for sprinting fillies and mares and Saturday’s $175,000 Bessarabian Stakes (G2) has lured a full starting gate. Since the other graded stakes races in the division have been won by a few different horses, the champion could well be determined on Saturday.

The Bessarabian (race 9, post time 5:12 EST) is run at seven furlongs, which requires a horse to have some tactical sprint speed as well as stamina for the stretch run. Seven of the 14 entrants have won at the unique distance and that should help you begin to narrow down the contenders.

Winners at 7 furlongs on an all-weather track

OUR FLASH DRIVE (#2), who won this race last year for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands, is 2-for-2 at even furlongs. Other winners at the distance are READY TO VENTURE (#3), LOYALTY (#7), ARTIE’S PRINCESS (#10), COLLECTING FLATTER (#11) and AWESOME TREAT (#12).

The invading filly MIDNIGHT STROLL (#13) is 2 for 4 at seven furlongs but on a traditional dirt track (although she was recently a close second in a Grade 2 stakes race on Tapeta at Presque Isle racetrack).

Projecting Performance

We can all see how a horse ran in her previous race (s) but the handicapping test is to project how a horse will run today. Is the horse in top form, showing improving or perhaps not as sharp as she has been during the year?

Our Flash Drive presents a quandary, as this top mare with over $640,000 in earnings comes off a very dull effort in the Ontario Fashion, a race won by Spun Glass (#1). Already a winner of two graded sprint stakes races this year, Our Flash Drive was close to a very fast pace in the Fashion. In fact, the pace was so fast (:44 1/5, :44 5/4) that Spun Glass and runner-up Awesome Treat (#12) came from far off the pace.

Perhaps Our Flash Drive deserves a pass for that effort since she has the powerful Casse and Husbands team in her corner.

Seaway Stakes (G3) winner Ready to Venture came to Woodbine from Maryland for trainer Michael Stidham. She ran a similar race to Our Flash Drive in the six-furlong Fashion; she chased the hot pace and dropped back. Ready to Venture posted a 90 Beyer Figure when she won the seven furlong Seaway and should be given a chance to bounce back.

Loyalty was third in the Fashion Stakes after forcing the hot pace, getting a clear lead into the stretch only to be run down late. The Josie Carroll-trained filly, who was second in this race last year, was previously fourth in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters Stakes while racing against a strong inside speed bias. On July 22, Loyalty, in just her second start of the year, won the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs with a 94 Beyer Figure. Her form pattern appears to be hinting at another upward move in the Bessarabian if she can time her move a bit better.

Midnight Stroll is also a filly who could have a peak effort in the Bessaarbian. She came off a July-to-September break with an 86 Beyer Figure in the Presque Isle Masters and has been kept busy with workouts in the two months since that race. She could put up another 90+ Beyer figure as she did in her last outing in July.

Both Spun Glass and Awesome Treat are coming off the best efforts of their careers when taking advantage of a faltering late pace.

How to play the Bessarabian Stakes

The payoffs should be generous in this race as there will not be any heavy favourite and the big field could add an element of luck to the process of picking a winner.

When playing the Bessarabian Stakes on, the three horses to consider are #3 Ready to Venture, #7 Loyalty and #13 Midnight Stroll.

Our Flash Drive (#2) should be considered if she is 5-to-2 or better and a longshot pick for wagers is #9 Miss Dracarys, who makes her first start on the Tapeta surface and recently defeated champion Moira in the Dance Smartly Stakes (G3) on the grass.

$10 win #7 Loyalty

$1 Exacta Box 2, 3, 7, 9, 13 = $20.00

Good luck with your wagers!