This weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week is once again at Saratoga Racecourse in Saratoga Springs, New York, where we will be taking a look at the last major stakes race run with the Saratoga summer meet coming to a close just two days later….wow….the Saratoga meet is over already? That was quick wasn’t it? Anyway, the race will draw some of the top older horses in the country including the amazing Paynter, the enormous Mucho Macho Man and Successful Dan, who is a half brother to 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
A total of seven had been entered in the one and one eighth mile event which carries a purse of $750,000 and will be run for the 59th time, but the field was actually narrowed down to six when Fort Larned, who won the 2012 Breeders Cup Classic, was withdrawn on Thursday.
“He is not 100%” trainer Ian Wilkes said on Thursday morning
“He strained something in behind,” Wilkes added after being looked at by veterinarians.
“It doesn’t look too serious, but he has to be 100% to run in these races. In watching him this morning I didn’t think he was 100%. He went out and jogged and took a long time to warm up and that is not normal for him.”
“The goal will still be to get to the Breeders’ Cup (Classic),” the trainer said. “The first thing I have do is make sure the horse is right and go from there.”
The Woodward has always been a favorite race of mine thru the years as the list of winners is long and impressive. Aside from Kelso (a three time winner), such greats as perhaps the greatest stretch runner in the history of the sport, Buckpasser, Damascus, Slew O’ Gold with his classic neck bow and a two time winner, Alysheba, Easy Goer, Cigar (twice), the wickedly fast Ghostzapper, Curlin and who could forget the great Rachel Alexandra’s win in 2009? All have found the winners circle in the Grade: 1 classic.
But perhaps the most impressive part about the history of this race is the four year stretch between 1977 and 1980. The winners of this race (in order) were Forego (who in 1977 won it for the fourth straight year in a feat we’ll never see again I’m sure), Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew (1978) and Affirmed (1979) and Spectacular Bid, who remains the greatest I’ve ever seen run live (1980).
On top of that, other races from around the country that should draw some attention include Saturday’s seven furlong Debutante for two year old fillies at Del-Mar where the race drew extremely competitive.
Undefeated Concave, a half-length winner of the Sorrento Stakes, will square of against (runner-up in the Sorrento) She’s a Tiger, the highly touted Awesome Baby and Fascinating, a half sister to the speedy Bodemeister and a $1.3 million Keeneland yearling last September
Concave is 2-for-2 after wins on the turf and in the Sorrento, She’a a Tiger, who came into the Sorrento unbeaten in two tries including the Landaluce Stakes July 13, fought Concave tooth and nail in a stirring stretch duel in the Sorrento and Awesome Baby cruised in her debut in winning by 4 3/4 lengths (Aug. 4) while scoring an 85 Beyer figure, best in the field. Awesome Baby worked a sensational six furlongs (1:11 flat) in preparation for this last week.
Two other races to take note of are Sunday’s Sapling at Monmouth. Albeit the Sapling has lost some luster over the years, it should still be a race that you should take note of. I like the unbeaten Yes I’m Lucky, but Dunkin Bend was a very impressive winner in his last at Sartoga. A total seven will battle six furlongs for $100,000 on Sunday
Lastly, on the Woodward under-card is the $500,000 Forego Handicap at seven furlongs. Saratoga surface lover Jackson Bend, the speedsters Fast Bullet, Saratoga Snacks and Golddiggers Boy will all face recent Alfred Vanderbilt winner Justin Phillip in yet another very competitive race. I do like the aptly named Fast Bullet in that one.
Saratoga – Saturday, August 31, 2013
Race 10 – 5:45 PM
Woodward Stakes (Grade I)
For Three-Year-Olds and Upward
One And One Eighth Miles
|1||1||Ron the Greek||6/H||L||J Castellano||126||W I Mott||
|2||2||Successful Dan||7/G||L||J R Leparoux||126||C LoPresti||
|3||3||Fort Larned||5/H||L||B J Hernandez, Jr.||126||I R Wilkes||
|4||4||Flat Out||7/H||L||J Alvarado||126||W I Mott||
|5||5||Paynter||4/C||L||R Bejarano||126||B Baffert||
|6||6||Mucho Macho Man||5/H||L||E S Prado||126||K Ritvo||
|7||7||Alpha||4/C||L||J R Velazquez||126||K P McLaughlin||
1) Paynter- is quite a story after he seemingly came from out of nowhere last year and ran his lungs out to get beat a half length in the Belmont Stakes before manhandling the field in the Haskell Stakes.
But from there, as I’ve well documented, this horse got sick and before you know it he was battling for his life.
Somehow he managed to get thru all of that, not only alive, but back to the track.
Paynter came back stronger than ever to win a seven-furlong allowance race at HollywoodPark in June in wire to wire fashion while stopping the clock in an impressive 1:21.4.
He then took the lead at the head of the stretch in his next race (the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar over the Polytrack) but was run down late by Kettle Corn.
After the race both trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano agreed, this big, good looking horse by Awesome Again didn’t really care for the (Del-Mar) Polytrack surface.
Overall, he is 4 for 8 in his career and comes into this with a monster seven furlong work (1:24.4 over a surface he doesn’t care for) in tow.
You have to like the versatility too as he can beat you from on or off the pace.
“The whole key is the break. He can do whatever you want,” Baffert said. “He can be on the lead or if he misses the break he can sit and he can track horses.”
With the withdrawals of both Cross Traffic (wire to wire winner of the Whitney in his last) on Wednesday and the speedy FortLarned (on Thursday), this race suddenly becomes void of any major early speed.
Therefore, I expect this horse to be on the early lead and should make every pole a winning one.
2) Successful Dan- is an absolute win machine (8 for 14 in his career) and has similar ability to that of younger half brother and 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
In his last race (The Whitney over this very track), he was next to last early and some 12 lengths behind, but came roaring off the final turn (six wide) and down the stretch to get beat a half length to Cross Traffic.
It doesn’t appear he’ll be that far back again in this race by listening to trainer Charles Lopresti.
When asked what his plans were for the Woodward, Lopresti said “I’d like to see him third or fourth, maybe four or five lengths off of it (early).”
Lopresti also said this horse was “doing so well” he brought him back to the track Thursday morning for a gallop, one day after he breezed three furlongs over the main track (in :37 flat)
“He dragged him (his excersice rider) around out there,” LoPresti said. “That little breeze he did yesterday didn’t take anything out of him. It put a little bit of wind in him actually.”…looks to be Paynter’s main foe.
3) Mucho Macho Man- hasn’t really been the same since his torrid stretch duel with Fort Larned in last years Breeders Cup Classic, where he finished a dead game second beaten a half length for all the money.
I mean here we are, borderline September, and this humongous animal hasn’t won a race all year yet?
Granted, he’s only been in three but still those three were nothing to write home about. He was pulled up in the Jan 19 Sunshine Millions Classic, then he got sick and spent some time on the sidelines. He then came back in the June 14 Criminal Type Stakes but finished a weakening third. I thought that the Criminal Type Stakes would have set him up perfectly for the (Aug 3) Whitney Handicap but after stalking the early pace in that race, he finished third and was clearly beaten (passed in the stretch) by Successful Dan.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one talented chestnut and when he’s right, he’s capable of running lights out….but I just don’t think he’s right at this point and he’s been beaten fair and square by Successful Dan twice in the past 15 months.
The ageless Flat Out, who comes into this race after winning two of his last three and with back to back bullet works in tow. Albeit, he is 0 for 3 over the Saratoga surface, trainer Bill Mott said on Thursday “He’s been real sharp here recently”… he should merit respect and some betting consideration.
Record: 16-42 = 38%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** After another lop-sided win (in the Personal Ensign Handicap) last Sunday Aug. 25 at Saratoga, two time champion Royal Delta will now be aimed to the $400,000 Beldame Stakes on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park as her final race before the 2013 Breeders’ Cup.
Trainer Bill Mott said she will be cross-entered in both the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Classic
“She looked fine; she was good this morning,” Mott said Monday. “(She) Looked like she’s got another one in her. If she runs in the Beldame, we go to the Breeders’ Cup. She could be nominated to both the Classic and Distaff the same way she was last year, but I don’t think anything is written in stone yet. I think that would be a conversation for something closer to the race. I don’t think it’s something we’re going to plan on now. It’s an option.”
The good looking Empire Maker mare won the Personal Ensign by almost five lengths this past weekend and won the Delaware Handicap by 10 3/4-lengths in her previous start (July 20).
**** When Fed Biz, with Martin Garcia riding, won the Pat O’Brien Stakes last Sunday at Del-Mar he set a new track record
The big, good looking colt finished the race in a time of 1:21.12 for seven furlongs slightly faster than the 1:21.17 mark set by Lewis Michael in the same race in 2008.
Fed Biz was as many as eight lengths behind at one point but came under a ride from Garcia to win by a length over 4-5 favorite and former Triple Crown hopeful Goldencents .“He finally came through,” owner Kaleem Shah said in the winner’s circle. “He loves this track.”
“I let him do his own thing,” Garcia said. “When it was time to go, I moved him outside.”
**** Speaking of Cross Traffic earlier, trainer Todd Pletcher said “There’s a good chance he will be entered,” in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park,
“(The decision will be based on) what I think gives us the best chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” he said. “There’s a lot of variables. The horse is here, he’s doing well, he won the Whitney over the racetrack. He also ran very well at Belmont. I’d say it’s probably more likely that we run here than we won’t.”
Thanks for Reading….