The Grade 1 Woodward Stakes has delivered undeniable excitement in recent years. Two of the last three editions were annexed by fillies, one of which became the first three-year-old filly to do so. That filly was of course the unforgettable Rachel Alexandra. The 2012 version of the race has gathered a compact, but competitive field of seven racehorses.
#1 Rule (Roman Ruler Rockside by Personal Flag): Todd Pletcher pupil was too slow to assume his typical stalking style when last seen in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. He faltered and ended up ninth beaten 25 lengths. Before that he won the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup after setting pedestrian fractions in what was his first race of the year. He was third in this race last year and should be sitting on a peak effort. However, the five-year-old could be over the hill. Dark bay is a risky proposition, even with Ramon Dominguez up.
#2 Gourmet Dinner (Trippi x Potluck Dinner by Pentelicus): A good two-year-old and an OK three-year-old, he appears to be no better as a junior than he was as a sophomore. Winning this race will take what would be by far a career best effort. Are you willing to wager on that? Alan Garcia rides for Bruce Brown.
#3 Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno x Ponche De Leona by Ponche): Kathy Ritvo’s colt has turned into a monster as a four-year-old. If his last out win in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap doesn’t win you over, then nothing will. He crushed a good field by 2 ½ lengths while under hand urging. Somehow, he was 6-1 that day. You will be very lucky to get 5/2 in today’s event. That could be a steal if he runs back to his last effort. Mike Smith is back to Saratoga to ride, where he is winless in four tries this year.
#4 Trickmeister (Proud Citizen x Afternoon Trick by Afternoon Deelites): This very quick horse failed to make the lead in the Whitney, but didn’t run a terrible race while checking in fifth. New jockey Irad Ortiz is likely to coax the colt into a relaxed state once again, meaning he could find himself trying to get first jump on the pacesetter. Under this scenario, that would likely be the inside horse, Rule. Richard Dutrow has been hot and this guy has been sitting on a big race for a while. This could be a useful horse for the guaranteed late Pick 4.
#5 Stay Thirsty (Bernardini x Marozia by Storm Bird): 2011 Travers winner really came to life last summer, but just hasn’t been the same since. In four trips to the track since that big victory, he has failed to win while being defeated a combined 25 lengths. It’s hard to back him based on that and the fact that this is only his third race of the year and first since July 7. On the flip side, he OWNS this track and is working bullets. The dark bay is 4-3-1-0 at Saratoga. Javier Castellano rides for Todd Pletcher.
#6 To Honor And Serve (Bernardini x Pilfer by Deputy Minister): Bill Mott’s colt is supposed to be a router based on pedigree, but his races under a mile have been much more electrifying than those past a mile. Still, the Hall of Fame trainer is giving it one more shot at a big time route race. Who are we to question that? The problem of To Honor And Serve is that he has never really passed a horse. That means he needs to be on the lead, but jockeys have failed to do that for him recently. Will John Velazquez realize he must play catch me if you can to win the race? It’s a coin flip.
#7 Cease (War Chant x Limit by Cox’s Ridge): This is easily his favorite distance as he owns a record of 6-4-1-0 going 1 1/8 miles. The A Stall trained gelding was last seen scoring a 1 ¼ lengths upset over today’s trip and track. That was a good effort considering the long layoff he faced, but he really didn’t beat much. This guy is a tough call. Joel Rosario is listed to ride.
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