Horse racing fans should be getting ready for November’s Breeders' Cup, when the world’s best thoroughbreds will battle it out, and one of the races that most handicappers will find helpful is the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes
, which has been won by fillies in two of the last three years.
In 2009, champion 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra
beat the boys and last year, 4-year-old Havre de Grace
won on her way to being voted Horse of the Year. However, with no females in the field this year, the males will take back this race. Seven older thoroughbreds will compete in the $750,000 event. The 1 1/8 mile Woodward is a key race that will go a long way to determine the best older dirt horse. The winner of this race will be one of the one's to watch in the Breeders Cup Classic
Let's take a look at the field from the rail out:
1-RULE/Dominquez/Pletcher--He finished third in last year’s Woodward Stakes. Is coming off a ninth-place run in the Whitney Handicap, but he did win the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup in July. This five-year-old colt has shown much inconsistency, running a great race one time and then struggle in the next start. If he keeps with that pattern, then this should be a good one.
2-GOURMET DINNER/Garcia/Brown--He was a decent two-year-old and a so-so three-year-old, but he appears to be no better now into his four year-old season. Even with a career best, he would have to rely on all the others to falter. I won't wager on it, because it's not likely to happen.
3-MUCHO MACHO MAN/Smith/Ritvo--Has won four of his last five starts, including wins in two graded stakes races after finishing off his three-year-old campaign in 2011. Comes off a win in the Grade 2 Surburban Handicap at Belmont Park in July with Mike Smith in the saddle, and that one is back on today. Not sure this guy will be completely cranked up as these connections have the Breeders Cup Classic circled as the primary goal. Could still win this, but with little value here, I'll take a stand against.
4-TRICKMEISTER/Ortiz/Dutrow--A very quick horse that failed to make the lead in the Whitney, but didn’t run a terrible race while finishing fifth. May find himself once again in a chasing mode as he could get outrun again today for the lead by the rail horse. Gets a new rider in the up and coming Irad Ortiz, and we'll see how he handles the assignment. From the Rick Dutrow barn and that trainer has been hot. Might be a useful horse to use in trifecta's and/or supers.
5-STAY THRISTY/Castellano/Pletcher--With more than $1.5 million in earnings, this colt is the wealthiest of the Woodward starters. Kicked-off his four-year-old campaign with a second-place run in the Vandlandingham, followed by a fifth in the Surburban Handicap. We are well aware he loves the Saratoga main track with wins coming in last years Jim Dandy and Travers. Even though it's Pletcher, we may still get nice odds in a short field on a very talented horse.
6-TO HONOR AND SERVE/Velazquez/Mott--Has made three starts in 2012, all at Belmont Park. Won the Grade3 Westchester, then ran third behind Shackleford in the Grade 1 Met Mile, and his most recent outing was a fourth in the Surburban Handicap. Colt also finished seventh in the Breeders Cup Classic last November and appears to be heading once again for another shot at the big race.
7-CEASE/Rosario/Stall--A true horse-for-course. Is 3 for 3 at Saratoga. Is taking a very large step up in class and hasn’t finished higher than third in four graded-stakes starts. Will be a longshot in this race due to the field being strong, but you never know what might happen once the gates open. Offers great value in the exotics.
STAY THIRSTY is my call. He is usually good for one big performance per year in a graded-stakes race, but he’ll have to hold off Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve. This race could possibly come all the way down to the wire, but Stay Thirsty will find enough to put an end to a twelve month dry spell and too wet my whistle.
Good luck, and as always enjoy the race!