Our Horse Racing Race of the Week once again brings us back to Saratoga Racetrack in Saratoga, New York for the 2012 Woodward Stakes. The one and one eighth miles, Grade: 1 event will feature Saratoga surface lover Stay Thirsty, the behemoth Mucho Macho Man as well as the good looking To Honor and Serve.
For the past several years, the Woodward Stakes has belonged to females and this year, in a way, is no different.
In 2009, three-year-old super filly Rachel Alexandra ran her guts out and defeated older males in a historic performance to complete an undefeated, unprecedented season. In 2011, Havre de Grace became the second female ever to defeat “the boys” and win the race. Both fillies went on to earn Horse of the Year honors.
This year’s female making trying to make her mark on the Woodward comes in a human form when trainer Kathy Ritvo saddles Mucho Macho Man against six other rivals in Saturday’s 10th race.
If Mucho Macho Man wins it would “be amazing,” Ritvo said this past Tuesday. “This is what we’ve been working for, and he deserves it. I just come along for the ride, and I’m happy to be there. Hopefully, we can make it happen for him.”
Mucho Macho Man is coming in off a powerhouse win in the Suburban on July 7 at Belmont Park. He won as much the best (by 2 ½ lengths) under a hand ride.
“My hands were shaking when I was watching how easy he was running and how much horse (jockey) Mike (Smith) had,” Ritvo said. (Smith was aboard the colt for the first time in the Suburban).
“I think he gets along with the horse great,” Ritvo said. “I think he has nice patience. He’s a great horseman, and he has unbelievable hands, and I think he fit him perfect.”
Run every year since 1954, the Woodward’s list of past winners is second to none. The great Kelso won three consecutive runnings from 1961 thru 1963, Buckpasser, perhaps the greatest stretch runner I’ve ever seen, won the race in 1966; the gorgeous Damascus (1967), the mighty Forego topped Kelso by winning this race four consecutive years from 1974 thru 1977, Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew (1978) and Affirmed (1979) won back to back runnings.
Spectacular Bid was so great, he won the 1980 running in a “walkover” as no one even bothered to show up and run against him.
The dynamite looking Slew O’ Gold, who pranced around with neck bowed, won back to back runnings in 1983 and 1984, “America’s Horse” Alysheba won in 1988, followed by the powerful Easy Goer in 1989. The “incomparable” Cigar also won back to runnings in 1995 and 1996, the fastest horse yours truly has seen since Spectacular Bid, Ghostzapper, won the race in 2004.
Other races that bear watching this weekend include the race before the Woodward, the seven furlong Grade: 1 Forego Handicap for sprinters. That race drew well as 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford will take on another Saratoga surface lover in Jackson Bend. That, readers, should be an entertaining race.
Down at Monmouth Park, the ill-fated Barbaro’s full brother, Lentenor, will see action in the $100,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes on the turf at one mile on Saturday. A winner of just four of 16 career starts, I always pay close attention to when and where Lentenor runs….he doesn’t have nearly the talent of his brother, but he does look like him and keeps him fresh in my mind.
Out of all the big races this weekend the one that might be the most intriguing to me is the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante on Saturday at Del-Mar.
Executiveprivilege, a very impressive winner of her first three lifetime starts, will probably go off as a heavy favorite in the seven furlong event.
This two year old filly by First Samurai is trained by Bob Baffert and, so far, they haven’t been all that close to beating her as she’s won those first three starts by a combined nine lengths.
She was a $650,000 Ocala Breeders sale purchase this past spring and made her racing debut in a maiden race at Hollywood Park. In that race (June 28), she completely missed the start and quickly found herself towards the back of the pack in the 5 ½ furlong dash. But leading rider Raphael Bejarano, who’s ridden in all three races, swung her to the outside and she roared down the stretch to win by 4 ½ lengths.
In her second start (July 14) Baffert wasted no time at all and entered her in a stakes race (the Landaluce Stakes) also at Hollywood Park. She blew away her competition there as well as she drew off to win by 3 ½ length.
Most recently, she took the August 8 Sorrento Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths as the 2/5 betting favorite.
On top of all that, she comes into Saturday’s race showing a six furlong work of 1:12.2 on August 20, then an eye popping 1:10.4 six furlong work less than a week later. Can you now see why I’m so intrigued?
Saratoga – September 1, 2012
Race 10 – 5:45 PM
Woodward Stakes (Grade I)
For Three-Year-Olds and Upward
One And One Eighth Miles.
|1||1||Rule||5/H||L||R A Dominguez||126||T A Pletcher||
|2||2||Gourmet Dinner||4/C||L||A Garcia||126||B R Brown||
|3||3||Mucho Macho Man||4/C||L||M E Smith||126||K Ritvo||
|4||4||Trickmeister||5/H||L||I Ortiz, Jr.||126||R E Dutrow, Jr.||
|5||5||Stay Thirsty||4/C||L||J Castellano||126||T A Pletcher||
|6||6||To Honor andServe||4/C||L||J R Velazquez||126||W I Mott||
|7||7||Cease||5/G||L||J Rosario||126||A M Stall, Jr.||
Analysis: (By post position order with selections below)
PP#1- Rule- completely “mailed it in” in his last race (The Whitney Handicap August 8). This colt by Roman Ruler showed brief speed that day but faltered badly to finish last, beaten 25 lengths. I believe his best days are behind him as he’s only won twice in the past (almost) two years.
He still has some early speed and he might be amongst the leaders early, but I do not expect him to be around late in this one. To me, he’s an easy throw out.
PP#2- Gourmet Dinner- was once on my list of 2010 Triple Crown contenders, but has fallen mightily these last several months. He shows just one win in both 2011 and 2012 combined (1 for 9 actually) and, on paper, he just doesn’t stack up….next.
PP#3- Mucho Macho Man- big, good looking colt by Macho Uno is amongst the top older horses in training today from where I sit. In fact, to me, anything less than an Eclipse Award at this seasons end would be disappointing.
He looks to be coming into this race the right way as he shows back to back good workouts (Aug 12- 4F- :47 and Aug 19- 5F- 1:00.2) plus he’s won four of his last five races.
I’ll tell you that last race (July 7 Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park) really stands out at me. In that race, he laid just off a hot early pace (:45.4 half mile and 1:09.2 six furlongs) and just cruised home under a “hand ride” in an very quick 1:46.2…that, readers, was very impressive.
If they are going to beat him on Saturday, they had better bring their “running shoes”
PP#4-Trickmeister- this speedy, now five year old, should once again be on the early lead. The problem I see is two-fold. 1) There is other (quality) speed signed up in here with To Honor and Serve and Rule, so he might have to run too hard too early to have any gas left late in this one and 2) He has already been manhandled by Mucho Macho Man in his last race (he was beaten almost six lengths with Mucho Macho Man pulling away from him at the end)
Overall, I like this horse….a lot actually….I just think he’s in over his head here.
PP#5-Stay Thirsty- Does this horse love the Saratoga surface or what? I mean he is the prototypical “Horse for the Course” as he’s won just four of 14 career starts with three of those four wins coming here. (Two of those three wins were the Grade: 2 Jim Dandy and the prestigious Grade: 1 Travers Stakes).
I like his daddy (Bernardini), his running style, (closer) and his workouts (Aug 19- 5F- 1:00.2)…add it all up and you have a big threat to win this.
PP#6- To Honor and Serve- is another (very handsome) Bernardini colt with terrific speed but has been rather disappointing to me in his career thus far.
Every time I think he’s turned the corner in his career…..he throws in a clunker of a race.
Last year I had him high on my Triple Crown list but he got injured. He came back and dominated two races in a row but then finished (albeit a close) seventh in the Breeders Cup Classic….not terrible, but a little disappointing.
Fast forward to this year where he starts the year by blowing out four other rivals in the Westchester Mile at Belmont Park. He then subsequently gets by beat by Shackleford in his next start (the Met Mile) and then gets smoked by Mucho Macho Man (beaten over seven lengths) in the aforementioned Suburban Handicap.
So which To Honor and Serve to we see Saturday afternoon? If it’s the good one, he’ll be right there at the end, if we see the bad one…well…he could still be running come Sunday morning. As I said last week, I do not make it a habit of betting inconsistent horses and neither should you.
PP#7- Cease- comes into this off a very nice stretch running win versus optional $75,000 claimers….. But this field is far from $75,000 claimers.
His prior two races, which were against Grade: 2 fields, resulted in thorough defeats.
To me, he needs a miracle to win this one. Like say, a complete and utter pace meltdown and he’ll need Mucho Macho Man, To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty all to have really bad days. Get my drift?….pass
1) Mucho Macho Man
2) Stay Thirsty
3) To Honor and Serve
Record- 15-43= 35%
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** 2012 Haskell Invitational winner Paynter, who suffered a relapse of an illness that kept him out of the Travers Stakes, has improved finally showed some improvement this week, according to veterinarian Mark Cheney.
Paynter, who has been suffering from a scary (103) fever and severe diarrhea, was sent to a clinic near Saratoga, where he was diagnosed as having an inflamed colon.
“We got better news today,” Cheney said this past Wednesday. “I was very excited about the slight improvement he’s shown, and he appears to be feeling better. His blood tests have also improved and that’s a huge move in the right direction. Everything else seems to be OK. Any improvement is encouraging and we just hope it keeps going. His ultrasound looks good, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed.”
Justin Zayat of Zayat Stables, who owns the colt, says “the next 24 hours are crucial” for Paynter.
“Our main concern is that his white blood cells (need to) go up so the infection and bacteria that are now in his colon and intestines don’t travel through his bloodstream and infect other organs”. Zayat added. “And his body becomes septic. If that happens that is the end of it. So again, next 24 hours are critical that this nightmare scenario doesn’t happen.”
**** Plans for Dullahan, who ran down Game on Dude to win Del-Mar’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic by a half-length this past Sunday, are up in the air at this point.
“I don’t know if we’ll run in the ( Breeders’ Cup) Classic,” trainer DaleRomans said. “If it’s (my decision) I’ll try him on turf next and decide if he wants to go a mile and a half. Either the Joe Hirsch or the Jamaica would be good, but if we want to get the mile and a half, the Joe Hirsch would be the one. There’s (the Presque Isle Mile on synthetic on September 7), but it’s only a mile.”
Romans mentioned the $10 Million Dubai World Cup as “long range plans’
“I know how to get (to Dubai). I know how to win that one,” added Romans, who took the 2005 Dubai World Cup with Roses in May. “That’s a long ways off, but it will be here before you know it. If everything went perfectly, you’d run one time, then Breeders’ Cup, a little break, one time, and then over there (in Dubai).”
When asked to reflect upon his gorgeous chestnut colt’s win last weekend Romans said: “I thought he was going to get a piece of it, but I didn’t know if he could run down (Game on Dude), Anytime a plan comes together, it’s good. We do a lot of things that don’t work out, so you’ve got to relish the ones that do. That was a little risky, going against older horses, but he does love synthetic. If you’re going to go out there, you might as well go for a big pot and a place where you can run on synthetic.”.
**** The dams of two of this year’s Triple Crown stars, I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, will be offered at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sales on November 5.
Arch’s Gal Edith, (I’ll Have Another), is in foal to Gio Ponti and Untouched Talent (Bodemeister) is in foal to Unbridled’s Son
I’ll Have Another is the third foal from Arch’s Gal Edith, who is 10-years-old and Bodemeister is Untouched Talent’s second foal from the now eight year old mare
I’m kind of curious as to what they sell for.
**** Fed Biz, who was one of my top Triple Crown prospect earlier this season after easy wins over maidens and allowance rivals at Santa Anita, will return to the races today (Friday) in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar.
Fed Biz, who is by super sire Giant’s Causeway, was pulled off the Triple Crown trail back in February because he was “off in the hind end” trainer Bob Baffert said.
“It was muscular, not skeletal,” Baffert said yesterday (Thursday) of the colt’s unspecified injury. “We gave him 60 days off, then started easy training again. He’s been doing really well down here. I was thinking about running him shorter (in the six-furlong Pirate’s Bounty next Wednesday) or at a mile. This is not an easy spot. It’s a pretty tough race. It’s good to have him back. He was one of my top three-year-olds early in the year.”
**** The highly touted Archwarrior, a $375,000 Ocala Breeders sale yearling trained by Todd Pletcher, made his long awaited debut yesterday at Saratoga and promptly won by 3 ¼ lengths.
With John Velazquez aboard, the colt by Arch laid second through a :22 1/5 first quarter mile, but began to challenge for the lead when reaching the half-mile mark in :45, and took over down the stretch. He was 1 1/2 lengths clear at the eighth-pole, getting five furlongs in a swift :57 1/5, and opened up on the field while finishing six furlongs in1:10.
“Everything went as smoothly as we hoped it would,” Pletcher said. “I thought he ran very well, very professional. He finished up well and galloped out strongly.”
“He ran very, very nice,” Velasquez said. “He has been very impressive in the mornings, and for him to come back and do it in the afternoon was very nice.
“I worked him behind horses, so it’s not like he’s been on the lead in the mornings. I knew that I could rate him. I didn’t think he would be on the lead because he’s not very quick from the gate. He did everything very, very good.”
“No, he’s not as fast as Uncle Mo,” Velazquez said when asked to draw a comparison to 2010 two year old champion Uncle Mo, who Velasquez also piloted. “He is much bigger and heavier than Uncle Mo. Uncle Mo was smaller and faster.
“Archwarrior is more the type of horse who will really get good when the distances get longer. He’s not going to win by 10 or 12 lengths, he’s not going to open up on the field. He’s just kind of steady. He should run all day long.”
When Pletcher was asked what was next for the flashy colt “We’ll play it by ear and see how he comes out of it,” the trainer said.