Trainer Todd Pletcher hopes to put all
the talk about Stay Thirsty’s “losing streak” to rest when
the 2011 Travers winner returns to the scene of his greatest triumph in
Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward at Saratoga Race Course.
Winless in four tries since pulling off the Jim Dandy-Travers double at
the Spa last summer, the 4-year-old son of Bernardini will face a select field
of seven in the 59th running of the 1 1/8-mile race, including the
popular handicap star Mucho Macho Man, Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap winner To
Honor and Serve, and speedy multiple stakes winner Trickmeister.
The stakes-rich card also features the Grade 1 Forego at seven furlongs
and the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. The
Woodward and the Forego will be televised from 5-6 p.m. on NBC’s
“Summer at Saratoga”
Stay Thirsty, owned by Repole Stable, rose to the upper echelon of the
3-year-old division last year with his back-to-back victories at Saratoga. He already had won
the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack and finished a strong third behind
Flat Out and subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer in his
first try against older runners in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Stay Thirsty then finished a 11th
in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and lost his first two races of 2012, the
most recent being the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont.
“He is rounding back into his best form,” said Pletcher of
the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. “I think he is training as well
as he ever has. We’re expecting a good effort from him. Everybody’s
making a big deal about his so-called losing streak, but he’s only run
four times since the Travers last year.
“One of those was the first time against older horses in the
Jockey Club, in which he ran a respectable third. He ran poorly in the
Breeders’ Cup Classic over a Churchill surface he hates and a number of
horses hated that day.
“Since then, by design, he’s had a freshening pointing him
toward a late-summer and fall campaign,” said Pletcher. “He ran
very well first time back and got out-footed by a quicker horse and then, unfortunately,
the Suburban fell on a very hot day he and a number of horses didn’t
really respond very favorably to. So, we’ve regrouped and freshened for
this, and I like the way everything’s coming together. I think Stay
Thirsty is one of, if not the horse
to beat based on his form here at Saratoga
and the way he is training currently.”
Pletcher will complete an uncoupled entry in the Woodward with Rule, a
WinStar Farm runner coming off the worst defeat of his career, a ninth-place
finish in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 4. In his prior
start, the 5-year-old won the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup, and he has finished in the
money in three out of four Spa starts.
Rule, 12-1 on the morning line, usually makes his presence felt on the
pace, which figures to be strong with Trickmeister, To Honor and Serve and
Mucho Macho Man in the field.
Mucho Macho Man, the 8-5 favorite, will be looking for the first Grade
1 stakes victory of his career in the Woodward; it also would be the first for
trainer Kathy Ritvo.
The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno placed third last year in the Kentucky
Derby and lately has won four out of five starts in dominant fashion, most
recently crushing the Suburban field by 2 ½ lengths under a hand ride by jockey
“He’s training very good,” said Ritvo.
“We’re ready to go. This will be our first Grade 1 if we’re
blessed with that.”
Like Stay Thirsty, Live Oak Plantation’s To Honor and Serve
suffered a poor outing in the Suburban, stalking in third and fading to fourth
in the stretch. Before that, however, he proved his class with the Cigar Mile victory,
a win in the Grade 3 Westchester, and a solid third behind Shackleford in the Grade
1 Metropolitan Handicap.
“We’re disappointed in his race in the Suburban, but given
my excuse of the hot weather, I think he’ll run better if we get a decent
day,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee John Velazquez picks up the mount on To
Honor and Serve, 2-1 on the morning line.
The speed of the race likely belongs to Trickmeister, 6-1, last seen
dueling on the lead before fading to fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney. He was third
behind Mucho Macho Man in the Suburban and has four stakes victories to his
credit when allowed to dictate his own terms. He is trained by Richard Dutrow,
Trainer Al Stall, Jr., in the midst of an extremely productive Saratoga meet, sends out
5-year-old gelding Cease for owners Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm.
After two losses earlier this year over synthetic and turf courses,
Cease returned to his preferred dirt in his most recent start and scored by 1 ¼
lengths in a $75,000 optional claimer July 25 at the Spa.
While Cease, 10-1, is not as accomplished as his opposition, Stall sees
an opportunity in the Woodward over a track on which Cease is unbeaten in three
“If you draw a line through his turf, Polytrack and the 1 ¾-mile
Breeders’ Cup Marathon, he’s been pretty solid,” Stall said.
“We know we’re stepping up, but he acts like its home track. This
is where his best numbers and races are. If you take out the one marquee name
– Mucho Macho Man this year – we’ll try to take advantage of
a short field.”
Rounding out the group is million-dollar earner Gourmet Dinner, 30-1 on
the morning line and fourth most recently for trainer Bruce Brown in the Grade
3 Phillip Iselin on August 18 at Monmouth Park.