Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga

Can you believe its closing weekend at Saratoga Race Course already? and that the meet at beautiful Del Mar Racetrack will end mid week next week? Time really does fly when you’re having fun doesn’t it? That being said, our feature race this week will be the 2014 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course for three year olds and up going nine furlongs for $600,000. The classic race drew a field of 10 with Zivo, a winner of six straight races, the speedy Moreno, who wired the Whitney field his last time out and Itsmyluckyday, who was right behind Moreno in the Whitney, amongst the top contenders. Actually, the entire day on Saturday at Saratoga is a big one with four stakes races being run in total including the comeback of back to back Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Other stand out races at Saratoga this Saturday include the $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (race: 5) which will feature the aforementioned Wise Dan taking on nine other (with a pair of MTO’s) in the 1 1/16ths miles turf race.

If you recall, Wise Dan won the April 11 Maker’s 46 Mile and the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic before taking on his toughest foe yet, a bad case of colic that required surgery.

“I wanted to bring him along slow, so I did that, and this gave me a little bit more time,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He’s ready to run and I don’t want to sit around and not run him here and take him back to Kentucky and have to go back to Woodbine (for the Sept. 14 Ricoh Woodbine Mile), so my goal is to run here.”

“Everybody tells me that it shouldn’t affect him, what happened to him, and I don’t think it’s affected him, but you don’t know that until you run.” LoPresti added about his good looking gelding, who recorded seven published works since the surgery including a half in :47.4 last Sunday

“He’s gotten back to where he was; he’s dragging his rider around there,” LoPresti said. “His works have been really good, and they’ve been basically not even asking him to do that. He’s just been doing it in hand.

“I think he’s back to himself again. It took him a while to get back. We were probably two works short of the Fourstardave. Once we got him up here, I realized I was trying to play catch-up to make that race and this makes more sense.”

“I want to get him started. I’m not going to jump off the roof if he gets beat half a length or a length, something like that,” LoPresti said. “He’s been beaten before, so that doesn’t worry me. He got beat in the Shadwell Mile (in October 2013) and everybody started writing him off, but he got beat by a horse that got on the front end and just stole the race.

It could happen again (Saturday), but (jockey) Johnny’s (Velasquez) is smart enough. He’s not going to abuse him and chase some horse around there just to get a win in him. If he’s lucky enough to win, fine, but if it sets him up for the Shadwell and the Breeders’ Cup, I’m OK with that, too.”

Race six on the card is a very important one as well (see “Little Bets N’ Pieces” below)

Skipping up to Race: 8 on the card is the $300,000 Prioress Stakes, which is a six furlong sprint for three year old fillies

The Prioress contenders include Miss Behaviour, who came second behind the talented Sweet Reason in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 2 in her last start. “The Prioress was a race we had circled since the beginning of the year, the one we thought we had a chance to be the most competitive in,” trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “Running second in the Test was gravy. We were over the moon about it.” Also keep an eye on Princess Violet, who had won two races in a row before chasing Untapable home second in the Mother Goose Stakes her last time out and Southern Honey, who had won three in a row before tiring badly in the Test Stakes but she could have had an excuse being the Test was her first race in about nine weeks.

Race: 11 is the Grade:1 Forego Handicap, which is a seven furlong sprint for three year olds and up for $500,000. Some of the Forego contenders, which drew a field of 10, include one time Kentucky Derby contender Vyjack, the talented, yet somewhat disappointing Falling Sky, Clearly Now, who set a track record in winning the Belmont Sprint Championship in his last and Weekend Hideaway, who is having a very strong 2014 season. Of all, I like Palace, who won the Alfred G Vanderbilt while getting six furlongs in a hot 1:08.2 his last time out. On a side note, good luck to stable-mate Sensational Slam and owner Pete Proscia of Paradise Farms. Now and again, when I go see my own horses train, I get chance to watch this big chestnut train as well…he’s quite an eye catcher.

Unfortunately, I have to publish this before the other key races are even drawn this weekend but be sure to watch the Del Mar Derby at Del-Mar (Sunday) for three year olds going nine furlongs on the turf and the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga for two year old fillies stretching out to seven furlong also on Sunday.

The races listed on Monday include the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf, a $100,000 race for two year old fillies going a mile on the turf, and the Yellow Ribbon Handicap for three year olds and up fillies and mares going a mile and a sixteenth, both at Del Mar.

Parx Park near Philadelphia will host the Greenwood Cup, a marathon event for three year olds and up and for $200,000 and the Smarty Jones Stakes, a grade: 3 for three year olds going a mile and seventy yards

Lastly on Monday, which is closing day at Saratoga, will be the Grade: 1 Hopeful Stakes for two year olds going seven furlongs for the $350,000 and the Saranac Stakes for three years olds only on the turf at nine furlongs.


By: Gerard Apadula

Director of Equine Operations and Development

Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team 


2014 Record: 18-46 = 39% 



Saturday Aug. 30, 2014

Saratoga Race Course

Race: 11

Post: 6:46pm EST

The Woodward Stakes (Grade: 1)

Distance: 1 1.8 miles

For Three Year Olds and Up

Purse: $600,000


1 Itsmyluckyday P. Lopez
120 Lbs
E. Plesa, Jr. Blk-On L
2 LongRiver I. Ortiz, Jr.
120 Lbs
K. McLaughlin Blk-On L
3 Micromanage R. Maragh
120 Lbs
T. Pletcher L
4 Moreno J. Alvarado
122 Lbs
E. Guillot L
5 Prayer for Relief J. Velazquez
118 Lbs
D. Romans L
6 Romansh J. Ortiz
120 Lbs
T. Albertrani L
7 Zivo J. Lezcano
120 Lbs
C. Brown L
8 Norumbega J. Castellano
120 Lbs
C. McGaughey III Blk-On L
9 Last Gunfighter J. Bravo
120 Lbs
C. Brown L
10 Stephanoatsee J. Rosario
118 Lbs
N. Zito L



1) Zivo- this big bay five year old, who has won six races in a row and seven of his last eight, appears the one to beat.

Running in State Bred races for most of the year, trainer Chad Brown decide it was time to aim a little higher and entered this horse in the Grade: 1 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July5 and he responded in a big way.

After being last in the early going, he began picking up horses on the far turn and exploded down the stretch to win by three “going away” lengths at almost 14-1 odds.

“You got to put them in spots where they can do well,” said Brown. “You get on a run with these horses; they’re getting more confident, overachieving. It helps the development of a horse. You get in a rhythm where you just don’t know how far up the ladder they’ll go. You just give them every chance. This is getting towards the top.”

“You can’t run in them all,” Brown added. “We thought the Whitney was a good one to skip out of all of them. Come in here fresh at a mile and an eighth, slight cutback off the Suburban, and hope we get some pace.”

Personally, my only concern is the pace he gets in front of him and the 56 day break he’s had between this race and his last.

“We just tried to give him more time,” said Brown. “He’s doing really well. He needs some pace to run at. I would expect (Itsmyluckyday) to engage Moreno a little sooner this time if he expects to have a chance to win. If Itsmyluckyday lets him gallop around again, he’s not going to beat him.”

That exactly what this stone cold stretcher runner needs (a quick pace in front of him.) I think he’ll get it, coming running late and nail the speed in deep stretch.



2) Itsmyluckyday- had his three race winning streak snapped in the aforementioned Whitney Stakes when Moreno was, more or less, allow to lope along on an uncontested early lead.

Still, I thought his colt, by the fleet Lawyer Ron, ran a tremendous race while, after being taken back off the pace (4th) in the early going, he swung into the stretch and finished second, beaten less than two lengths.

Trainer Ed Plesa Jr. will add blinkers for this race, which is a signal he intends on being closer to the early lead this time around.

“I think maybe we can fine-tune him a little bit, maybe focus him down the lane,” Plesa said about the equipment change. “Sometimes, horses need a little something to shake them up. I don’t think Moreno is going to have his own way in this race, for whatever reason, whether it’s me or somebody else. Jockeys get paid a lot of money to ride these horses; they need to know how fast the horses are going in front of them. He (Moreno) won the (Whitney)—no ifs, ands or buts. He’s the horse to beat.”

Exactly Mr. Plesa, that’s my thought process as well. No way will Moreno be out front early all by himself again…someone will run with him… and if that’s the case you should be able to make up those two lengths from the last time with no problems.


3) Moreno-yes, he went coast to coast in the Whitney his last time out but remember a couple of things.

Like I said earlier, he did so because he was allow to set all the pace without much pressure right from the start…that is unlikely to happen again here and that Whitney win was his first win in over a year (53 weeks to be exact).

“The Woodward is just another journey,” trainer Eric Guillot said of his gelding, who worked five furlongs in :59.1 last Saturday. “This horse is better doing 30-30-30 days (between races) and training light in between and working him like I do. He’s a fresh horse. He’s not tired by any means.”

When asked about Itsmyluckyday’s equipment change, Guillot, who is never at a loss for words said: “It changes their perception about how good Moreno is, I think, I remember an article saying how great (Itsmyluckyday) was doing before the Whitney. He was doing unbelievably. So he can’t be doing better than they had said before the Whitney. I know Eddie Plesa is a good trainer. I think he’s one of the better horsemen in the country… So, putting the blinkers on means what? You’re going to try to stay closer to me? You wanna be a rabbit or the sacrificial lamb? Which one do you want to be? I’m going to tell them for the third time this week: if you’re in front of me, you’ve run too fast.”

That’s probably true as this gelding, by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper, is fast and game, a lethal combination in this sport. But still, even with a five month break in between, winning just two races in one year doesn’t inspire much confidence.


Honorable Mentions:

Micromanage has been plagued by inconsistencies throughout his career. That being said, if you’re a long-shot player this is your horse based off his last race (win) in the marathon Birdstone Stakes (he won by eight and registered a very high speed figure) and the fact that his only other race over this surface was yet another titanic win (broke his maiden first time out by five lengths)…Can you say “Horse for the Course” angle with this guy??…live long-shot….Last Gunfighter didn’t run well again (for the second time in a row) in the Whitney (5th, beaten 10 lengths), is this guy’s form and career going downwards or did he have some issues during those races and he’ll bounce back hard on Saturday? “He didn’t run badly (in the Whitney), and he deserves another shot,” trainer Chad Brown said. “Last year, he was pretty consistent. The Mountainview ( his first race this year) might have knocked him off a little bit; he ran hard in that race and bounced in the second race off the layoff, but in his last race he got a real wide trip in a tough heat and held his own pretty well. Hopefully, he can save some ground and make up a few lengths.”


Little Bets N’ Pieces:

**** The wickedly fast Social Inclusion, who finished third in both the Wood Memorial and Preakness earlier this year, will be sidelined indefinitely due to a tendon injury, new trainer Chad Brown said Monday.

Social Inclusion was transferred from his former trainer, Manny Azpurua, to Brown by owner Ron Sanchez a few days after his disappointing seventh-place finish in the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 27.

Brown, sensing something was a miss, sent the colt by Pioneerof the Nile to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky to be examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage, who diagnosed the injury.

“The horse has a tendon injury,” Brown said. “It’s not quite as bad as we thought, or as it could have been, but there is an injury there. The horse does have a chance to make a full recovery from it, but it’s going to take some time and patience. He’s on a farm in Kentucky, and we’ll just monitor his progress from month to month to see how he’s doing. There’s a chance this horse could actually go back under tack in 60 days, if everything goes okay. We just need to see how this heals up first.”



Social Inclusion is injured

Social Inclusion is injured

**** On a personal note, we will be running Real Estate Rich in the sixth race at Saratoga on Saturday. The enormous chestnut gelding, who was last at the top of the stretch in his last race before uncorking a monstrous late run only to come up a neck short at 17-1, will once again be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez and break from what I believe is a perfect spot (PP#6). “Richie” has been “feeling good” all week and I expect another good performance provided he doesn’t have any traffic issues in the full field of 13.


* Also, once again at the time of this writing, although the card hasn’t been draw yet, we will be running Princess Mara back on Monday as well. I’m not sure of the race number, but our big, good looking six year old mare will be going a mile and three eighths on the turf and we will hoist Junior Alvarado aboard her again.



**** I Spent It, the winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Aug. 9, worked five furlongs in 59.4 seconds over the main track last Tuesday but will skip Monday’s Hopeful Stakes according to trainer Tony Dutrow.

Dutrow said he will point to the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes on Oct. 4 instead.

“I couldn’t be happier with what I saw (in the work),” Dutrow said. “If we run in the Hopeful, we would do very well. I don’t know if winning the battle is as important in the long career of a young horse as winning the war.”


I Spent It will be skipping the Hopeful Stakes on Monday

I Spent It will be skipping the Hopeful Stakes on Monday