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Mucho Macho Man and Stay Thirsty among seven in Woodward

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” series.

 

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 Mike Smith.

 

“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, Jr.

 

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 starts.

 

“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.

 

 


 

 

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Older Comments about Mucho Macho Man and Stay Thirsty among seven in Woodward...

For the most part, I completely agree with you AndyScoggin. Shackleford is a huge play against for me, considering tossing him completely. At best he's a "C" (using Steve Crist ABC method). I understand the Vanderbilt was on off going, but Shack ran horribly in the Travers last year as well. Dave Grening from DRF said he didn't look as well as he normally does in his most recent work - I think he just doesn't care for the Saratoga surface. MMM will be a "B" for me in the Pick 4 Saturday.
Meant to say "Good thing Mucho Macha Man ISN'T running..." in last comment.
I have never seen Mucho Macho Man run. I participated in two simulcasting handicapping contests this summer at Oaklawn. Horses like Rule, Ron the Greek, Hymn Book, Flat Out, and Fort Larned were in races we handicapped. Looking at all of there past performances one thing stood out...Good thing Mucho Macho Man is running. He's pounded almost all of them!
Looking at a big Pick 4 with Shackleford and Mucho Macho Man as play againsts.

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