Sunday plays: Back wheel this long shot in Woodward Stakes

Sunday plays: Back wheel this long shot in Woodward Stakes
Photo: Chelsea Durand / NYRA

One of the entries in the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodward Stakes at Aqueduct on Sunday shows an odd pattern where he runs well locally and throws in a bad race on other tracks. Given the horse in question starts on his favorite track again, he is the focus of the back wheel below.   

Click here for Aqueduct entries and results.

First, here are some thoughts for an exacta in the Grade 2, $250,000 Vosburgh Stakes earlier on the card. The race is led by the heavy favorite Cody’s Wish, who faces five opponents who seem overmatched.

Aqueduct race 3: Vosburgh Stakes (G2)

Even though Cody’s Wish faded to third and 10 lengths behind the winner White Abarrio in the Whitney Stakes (G1), at least he made a decent move on the far turn before flattening out late. The son of Curlin found the nine furlongs too long in his second attempt at that distance. 

Now Cody’s Wish cuts back to seven furlongs in the Vosburgh and he faces a questionable field void of top horses. Given Cody’s Wish won the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) in May and the Forego Stakes (G1) last year, he should find the Vosburgh distance up his alley.

Once Cody’s Wish reaches the lead on the turn, the other horses up front might fold after a brief attempt to fight back against the favorite.

Maybe High Oak can pick up the pieces and find a way to reach second in the stretch. His two most recent starts show significant improvement. That was particularly true in the Forego Stakes (G1) where he made a good closing move to finish third behind Gunite and Elite Power without pace to close into.

The play is a straight exacta with Cody’s Wish over High Oak.

Exacta: 6 over 5

Aqueduct race 7: Woodward Stakes (G2)

Law Professor has been a strange horse under trainer Rob Atras. On dirt, he only fires at Aqueduct before turning into a pumpkin elsewhere.

In last year’s Woodward, Law Professor gave a strong effort over the slop to finish second to Life Is Good. Law Professor even gave Life Is Good a brief scare by matching strides with him on the far turn, before Life Is Good retook control in the stretch and created a small cushion to pick up the win.

Despite the loss, Law Professor still earned a 126 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

Following a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland, Law Professor came back to Aqueduct to start off his 2023 campaign in the Queens County Stakes. Once again, Law Professor fired big on this course with a dominating 7 1/2-length win and 121 figure on TimeformUS.

Three months later, Law Professor also took the Excelsior Stakes on this course by 4 1/4 lengths while moving back up to a 125 on TimeformUS. But that performance was sandwiched by two fading efforts in the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn in February and the Pimlico Special (G3) at Pimlico in May. His performances on those courses felt different. 

In the Pimlico Special, Law Professor settled into a good stalking position in fourth before fading to sixth late and losing by 13 lengths.

Did Law Professor move up in his Aqueduct races because of wet dirt? The theory does not hold up because he shows a runner-up finish in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) over fast dirt under his previous trainer Michael McCarthy. Also, Law Professor won the off-the-turf Mathis Mile Stakes (G2).

The other contenders in this race include Charge It, Algiers and Zandon.

Charge It has been a disappointing runner for most of the year, with the exception of his win in the Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont.

Algiers shows improved form overseas at Meydan earlier in the year, including a good runner-up finish to Ushba Tesero in the Dubai World Cup in late March. In that race, he also beat the 2022 Saudi Cup winner Emblem Road for second by a nose. But it remains unclear where he fits against the American horses, as the level of dirt racing is higher over here. 

Zandon ran second to White Abarrio in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in his most recent start and shows consistent speed figures on TimeformUS. But the constant string of second-place finishes makes him hard to trust by himself.

Law Professor is 12-1 on the morning line. The play is to bet Law Professor to win and also key him in a back wheel under Charge It, Algiers and Zandon.

Win: 2 (at 8-1 or longer)

Exacta wheel: 1,3,4 over 2

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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