by Dustin Fabian
September 2, 2017
Prior to 2006, the Woodward was one of the staples of Belmont’s Fall Championship Meet. Now that it has been moved upstate, it’s a far more bittersweet event. On one hand, it’s exciting to watch the area’s top horses compete at New York’s premier racing venue. On the other hand, it’s held Labor Day Weekend, making it a stark reminder that Saratoga is shutting down and summer is coming to an end.
On the plus side, this year’s Woodward attracted the impressive Gun Runner, a winner in 3-of-4 starts this year, including the prestigious Whitney earlier in the meet. The card also includes the Grade 1 Spinaway for freshman fillies, and NYRA is offering an All-Stakes Pick 4 on the card (Races 8 – 11), as well as a Special ‘Middle’ Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9). Hit that Middle Pick 4 with your Xpressbet account to Split 1 Million Points.
Here’s how I’m playing Saturday’s races. First post is 1PM ET.
Race 9 (5:36PM ET) – Saranac Stakes (Gr 3; 300k) – 1 1/8 Miles Turf
The first stakes race on the card is the Grade 3 Saranac, and I think you can bet this one like a repeat of the last month’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes, where Chad Brown’s Bricks and Mortar (Rosario) and Bill Mott’s Yoshida (Ortiz Jr.) were separated by ¾-length at the wire. Speedier horses like Voodoo Song (Lezcano), Caviar Czar (Velazquez) and Mo Maverick (Franco) should ensure a quick pace, which will open things up to the closers’ kicks. The best of the laterunners are my top two picks, and I’ll also include Rocketry (Ortiz), who has won 2-of-3 but is making his first stakes start.
1) Bricks and Mortar, 2) Yoshida, 3) Rocketry, 4) Makarios
Exacta Box: BRICKS AND MORTAR and YOSHIDA
Trifecta: BRICKS AND MORTAR, YOSHIDA over BRICKS AND MORTAR, YOSHIDA, ROCKETRY over BRICKS AND MORTAR, YOSHIDA, ROCKETRY, MAKARIOS
Race 10 (6:11PM ET) – Spinaway Stakes (Gr 1; 350k) – 7 Furlongs Dirt
Talk about a microcosm of the meet – Todd Pletcher vs Chad Brown. They’ve gone head-to-head for the trainer’s title since Day 1, and they go head-to-head in the Spinaway, as Pletcher’s impressive Pure Silver (Velazquez) squares off against Brown’s Separationofpowers (Ortiz). Both have won earlier this meet, Separationofpowers taking a maiden race by almost 12-lengths and Pure Silver winning the Adirondack by 9 ½. The only concern is if the two big fillies lock up on the front end and pave the way for Lady Ivanka (Ortiz Jr.) or Maya Malibu (Castellano) to reel them in. That sometimes happens in perceived two-horse races. Pure Silver drew best and should be the top pick, but I’ll use some others beneath her to try and find a price.
1) Pure Silver, 2) Lady Ivanka, 3) Separationofpowers, 4) Maya Malibu
Exacta Key: PURE SILVER over SEPARATIONOFPOWERS, LADY IVANKA and MAYA MALIBU
Trifecta Key: PURE SILVER over SEPARATIONOFPOWERS, LADY IVANKA and MAYA MALIBU
Race 11 (6:46PM ET) – Woodward Stakes (Gr 1; 750k) – 1 1/8 Miles Dirt
On the other hand, the Grade 1 Woodward looks an awful lot like a one-horse affair. And that one horse is Gun Runner (Geroux). As a result of Arrogate’s issues, Gun Runner has assumed the role of the best older dirt horse in North America, and his 5 ¼-length win in the Whitney evidenced why. He can sit just about any trip and punch away at the head of the lane. The only blemish in his last five races was a defeat in the Dubai World Cup, but that’s it. Nobody else in the field appears on his level. Rally Cry (Velazquez) notched a big Beyer last time out but that was a breakout race I’m not sure he can repeat. War Story (Ortiz Jr.) was beaten 13 ½-lengths in the Whitney and Neolithic (Ortiz), who was a distant 3rd in both the Dubai World Cup and Pegasus World Cup, has earned a lot of money picking up the pieces. He didn’t look great in an allowance race earlier in the meet and it’s worth noting that his regular rider, John Velazquez, opted to go with Pletcher’s other horse.
1) Gun Runner, 2) Rally Cry, 3) Neolithic, 4) War Story
Exacta Key: GUN RUNNER over NEOLITHIC and RALLY CRY
Trifecta Key: GUN RUNNER over NEOLITHIC, RALLY CRY and WAR STORY
Race 12 (7:17PM ET) – Glens Falls Stakes (Gr 3; 200k) – 1 3/8 Miles Turf
The deepest of the day’s stakes races is likely the Glens Falls, where nine fillies and mares are set for this 1 3/8-mile turf event. My top pick is Shug McGaughey’s War Flag (Ortiz), who cut her teeth in France before coming to the US. She was 2nd last out in the Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth, defeating Miss Temple City in the process. Another European import worth watching is the German mare, Sarandia (Alvarado). She was my top pick in the Beverly D (she ran an ok 6th at 21/1), but may appreciate the added trip. Harmonize (Velazquez) is a Grade 1 winner, but she’s 0-for-4 this year and hasn’t been closer than 4th. Happyness (Ortiz Jr.) seems to be rounding back into her best form.
1) War Flag, 2) Sarandia, 3) Harmonize, 4) Happyness
Exacta Box: WAR FLAG, HAPPYNESS, SARANDIA and HARMONIZE
‘Middle’ Pick 4 – 2, 7, 9 / 1, 4, 6, 8 / 4, 5, 6 / 2, 4 = $36.00
Late Pick 4 – 2, 4 / 1, 3, 4, 5 / 2 / 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 = $36.00