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Breeders' Cup 2017

Can Havre de Grace Beat the Woodward Boys?

2011 Woodward contenders include Mission Impazible, Havre de Grace, Flat Out and Giant Oak
Two years ago, Rachel Alexandra beat the boys and became the first filly to win the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga Race Course, an achievement that helped propel her to Horse of the Year honors.


Saturday, it will be the 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace’s turn to take on males in the 58th running of the $750,000 Woodward,  a race won by such champions as Curlin, Cigar, Holy Bull, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and of course, Rachel Alexandra.


Along with the Grade 1 Forego, the Woodward will be telecast live on VERSUS from 5 – 6 p.m. as part of the continuing “Summer at Saratoga” series by the NBC Sports Group.


No worse than third in all 12 of her lifetime starts, Havre de Grace is 3-1-0 from four starts this year, with victories in the Grade 3 Obeah at Delaware Park, the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park, and the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn. Her only loss came by a nose to Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap, and when a hoped-for rematch in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at the Spa did not materialize, owner Rick Porter decided to do something bold.


“Obviously, we think we have a chance to be Horse of the Year,” said Porter. “And after we got beat a nose in the Del ‘Cap, we thought we had to do something aggressive, either run against Blind Luck again in the Personal Ensign [or] take the boys on. We had to do something to get everybody’s attention, hopefully.”


Indeed. Only a handful of fillies and mares ever have competed in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward, and Rachel’s accomplishment was more remarkable in that she won it at age 3 against older males. Porter, however, said the Stonestreet filly’s success in the race was not a factor in the decision to have Havre de Grace face males herself.


“We thought the time was right,” he said. “How Rachel won the race really had nothing to do with it.”


Like Rachel Alexandra before her, Havre de Grace is the morning-line favorite for the Woodward, in which she will face seven older males as she receives a three-pound weight concession. At 8-5, she drew post position six and will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.


Second choice at 5-2 on the morning line is Flat Out, most recently second, three lengths behind Tizway, in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 6. Longshot winner of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 2, the 5-year-old Flat Out put together back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in those two races, with his 113 for the Suburban the highest of the year for all horses going more than a mile.


“He’s sound and it’s a good feeling to know he’s doing well,” said trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey of Flat Out, who drew post position 7 for the Woodward with Alex Solis aboard.


Also returning from the Whitney is Giant Oak, the Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner who was third behind Tizway and Flat Out. With Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, Giant Oak drew post position 3 and was listed at 8-1 on the morning line.


Returning to Saratoga for the third straight year is Mambo Meister, who in 2009 was second on the turf in the Grade 2 Fourstardave and fifth in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch. Last year, he was fifth sprinting in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt.


“This may be his best incarnation yet,” said trainer Phil Gleaves of Mambo Meister, most recently an 11-length winner of the Primal Stakes at Calder Race Course on July 24. The 6-year-old gelding covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.17, earning a 110 Beyer, third-best of the year beyond a mile.


“That was the fastest 1 1/16 miles in three years at Calder, and his Beyer, along with a negative 4 ½ on the Sheets, puts him in the upper echelon of horses,” said Gleaves, who trains Mambo Meister for the Quantum Racing Team.


Mambo Meister drew the outside for the Woodward and, at 10-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Fernando Jara.


Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Woodward with Quality Road and the 2007 edition with Lawyer Ron, sends out the duo of Rule, beaten favorite in the James Marvin, and Mission Impazible, most recently sixth in the Whitney.


Rule, who drew post position 4 under Javier Castellano, is 5-1 on the morning line while Mission Impazible, with John Velazquez in the irons, is 10-1 from post position 2.


Rounding out the field are Convocation, winner of an optional claimer at the Woodward distance on July 29, and the Nick Zito-trained Ice Box, third in that race.


The field for the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward:








Ice Box (KY)

J Lezcano


N P Zito



Mission Impazible (KY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Giant Oak (IL)

S Bridgmohan


C M Block



Rule (KY)

J Castellano


T A Pletcher



Convocation (KY)

R Maragh


J A Jerkens



Havre de Grace (KY)

R A Dominguez


J L Jones



Flat Out (FL)

A O Solis


C L Dickey



Mambo Meister (KY)

F Jara


P A Gleaves






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Older Comments about Can Havre de Grace Beat the Woodward Boys?...

theres a lot of diffrence between RACHEL and GRACE!!
Macho Again- Record 24: 6-6-0- Earnings $1,825,767. Not bad for a second stringer.
The bit about Macho was not about Rachel, but was in answer to someone saying that Macho was a top colt. Overall he won 6 of 24 races with a win in a maiden and another in an allowance. His record at three and four was good, but the competition in most of those races didn’t have much success in G1 races later in their careers. Who was the best horse that Macho Again ever beat when winning a race. The answer has to be Einstein, and perhaps Kodiak Kowboy, who when Macho beat him in the Derby Trial stakes was basically an unheralded winner of a G3 and G2 in its first nine races and wouldn’t come into its own until after switching barns to Steve Asmusseen and then Larry Jones. The victory against Einstein was because of Einstein’s constant trouble in the Foster as noted in the DRF note at the end of his line: “bobbled, checked, bumped” and the race caption: “bobbled at the start to get away a bit slow; checked off heels near the seven-eights marker; was bottled up between horses down the backstretch and through the second turn; shifted out a bit and found a seam entering the stretch; was bumped and shuffled behind rivals with three-sixteenths to run; got through on the inside late but was left with too much to do”. That was Macho’s lone G1 win with Einstein finishing third and Asiatic Boy, a world trooper, but never the winner of a G1 or Group One race, finishing second.. Yes he won a few graded races, but he could never be considered a top colt because of his inconsistency. He was one for seven in G1’s, was 6th in the G3 LaComte; 7th in the G2 Lane’s End; 2nd in the G1 Preakness at 39-1; 5th in the G1 Belmont to Da’Tara; 8th in the G1 Travers; 2nd in the G2 Super Derby; 6th in the Woodchopper; 7th in the Sunshine Millions; 6th in the G3 Alysheba; then he had his summer of 2009 with the G1 Foster, G1 Whitney and G1 Woodward). His career after the Woodward was uneventful: 4th in the G1 JCGC; 9th in the G2 Clark (Blame, Misremembered and Einstein the top three a neck apart); 7th in the G3 Alysheba (Bullsbay 9th); and 10th to Blame in the G1 Foster in 2010. Rachel beat him and Bullsbay when it looked like she was finished and they were going to go by because she had superior class, which was the point I was trying to make.
I truly don't undertsnad what ehr connections are trying to prove. If she wins this, I highly doubt it will prove anything, except that her fan will try to make her seem like super horse. Yes, I agree that she is an amazing mare, the 4th in recent years, (Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Blind Luck, Harve de Grace) I think she is great, but in my opinion it would have been smarter for her connections to sharpen her up for the Classic if they really want to run her against the boys. If she wins this, yes she may be eligable for Horse of the Year, but it might also burn her out. Running against this type of competition is hard on a filly/mare. (Not that they are weaker than colts/stallions/geldings, but the fact is that they are more used to racing agaisnt their own sex, and it is just easier for them to sharpen.) I think that this was a mistake on the connections part and shouldn't be trying to prove their amazing mare so much when she is so easily doing it on her own.
icyhotboo- thanks for the compliment. I enjoy yours as well. I don't want to belabor the point, so I won't. If you just take Susan's Girl, Typecast, Key to the Mint, Riva Ridge and Autobiography, you can see what level of horse she ran against as a three year old filly. And she held her own. And she is forgotten. This is why I have to go by something more than time and open length wins. That is how I learned to evaluate relative strength of races and relative strength of the horse. I could be totally wrong, but it is how I was taught. That is why I talk about class and strength of field and that is why I feel they are important. Rachel ran a gutsy race. It isn't her race that I am criticizing. Anyway, I have had enough of this topic. Have a great day too. And thanks again.
What # race is the Woodward?
I wanted to make reference to those that constantly refer to Grade 1 competition. I don't know who rates the quality of the races, but, for the longest time they would ignore the Arkansas Derby as a Grade 1, despite the fact that it was a $1 million dollar race, and had the likes of Curlin, Smarty Jones, and Afleet Alex in successive years. They finally got that honor. And yet, Santa Anita can create a new race, and it automatically gets Grade 2 level, without ever having a race run. As much as we discuss horses, every horse has to start somewhere, and it wasn't Grade 1 competition. Let the best horse win, and he/she doesn't know what level of competition they are beating.
I am a little late to this discussion, but please allow me to add my two cents ... At ages 3 and 4, Macho Again won the: Stephen Foster, Jim Dandy, New Orleans Handicap, and Derby Trial. He was also was 2nd in the Preakness, Whitney, Super Derby, and of course, the Woodward. The fact that he was never the same after Rachel defeated him in the Woodward, in a race that could not have been better set up for him I might add, should in no way be held against Rachel. At the time of the Woodward, he was a very good horse.
footlick: I appreciate your responses and the fact you do so without sarcasm. I realize many times Woodward fields have been assembled who with the exception of Rachel were much better than this. The point I obviously failed to make was the race was run in such a way as she got no breather as they came at her relentlessly. I was there and felt both elation and sadness knowing she would need at least six months to recover.As an aside at the distance of 1 1/8 mile I would put her in with any of the great ones as I would Zenyatta at 1 1/4. Your point to me that racing isn't fair was not lost as I've owned horses(all standard bred) and on two occasions they were hit by lightning. On another the driver while leading in the stretch with a 10 length lead in a race in which I had a big bet fell out of the sulky , dead drunk. Your comment are always welcome as it seems you enlighten me about many things in racing of which I had no prior knowledge. Have a nice day.
LAZMANNICK : please read my prior thread where I give a brief explanation of class because for you to post your thread you either didn't see or didn't understand it! dubby30: I didn't post my thread about RA for you to use as a springboard to degrade Zenyatta's accomplishments, as you seem to have a mental disturbance about that. How do you sleep nights knowing she got horse of the year because EXPERTS agreed even though she lost one race she was in fact the best.A precedent was set for that in 1954 when Native Dancer only raced 3 times and won HOTY.PLEASE give us a rest from that drivel.I don't mind honest criticism but I do mind cheap shots!
I will always have a fondness for Bullsbay due to a nice payday in the Whitney, but in all fairness he was a wildly inconsistent horse.
Dubby this isn’t about Zenyatta, it’s about the 2009 Woodward. The 2009 Woodward was what it was. For the most part it wasn’t a race filled with top class horses. Sure Da’ Tara and Macho Again and Bullsbay were grade one winners, but once again why don’t you examine their G1 wins. Da’ Tara won 2 races in 19 tries, one a maiden, the other a Belmont when he was the longest shot in the race and basically inherited the win when Big Brown was pulled up and the others, including Macho Again, couldn’t get the distance. He also made zero boards in five other graded stakes races. Macho’s win in the Foster was against a deeply trouble Einstein who, the next time they met, finished 9 lengths in front of him. Bullsbays’ was gained against that same Macho Again and an over the hill Commentator, a two time winner of the Whitney with Beyers of 123 and 120 and who, on even a fairly good day would have trounced both him and Macho. All three of their G1 wins were “tainted” to some degree. If Big Brown doesn’t pull up, Einstein doesn’t get into serious trouble and Commentator was even a remote version of himself, then the 2009 Woodward would basically be the same as the 2010, a race with only the favorite being a G1 winner. Regarding class in this race, Rachel had it, no doubt about it, because she refused to lose even when whipped 20 or so times (a lot of horses would have quit with that much abuse). However, Bullsbay showed a distinct lack of top level class when he made a big move on the turn, looked like he was going to go right on by, and hung. Macho showed his lack of top level class when from the 16th pole home, and with a ton of momentum, he had every chance to win, but couldn’t gain the desired foot or two needed to get past Rachel. My question is, do you think Rachel would have gotten close to just about every other winner of the Woodward in the past and do you think she would have prevailed if a real, bona-fide G1 horse would have been nose to nose with her in that last 16th?
I don’t think that anyone would make the statement that the Woodward was a strong field of horses that lined up in 2009, only 3 grade 1 winners. But if you take into consideration the field that lined up in the 2009 Breeders Cup you could certainly say the same thing, that field was comprised of: Gio Ponti, Twice Over, and Rip Van Winkle, all turf horses of those only Gio had synthetic experience and by means of his 5th place and up the track performance previously you would have to say it was not a surface he relished. Summer Bird, Regal Ransom, MTB and Girolamo were unfamiliar with the surface and Summer Bird detested it so much that his owners sent him from John Sadler’s barn out at SA to Tim Ice to get him away from the surface, so he showed great class by finishing in the same position Curlin did in 08. Richard’s Kid, Colonel John, Awesome Gem and Einstein were all horses that had run previously on the surface but certainly were as inconsistent a group as you’d ever see, but the uninformed try to pretend as if this was some stellar group. And if you put the dirt horses back on dirt, and add Zenyatta to that mix you will probably see what you saw in 2010, her losing, when you put the turf horses in that mix, its not a stretch to say she would have probably found it difficult to win anything on turf with the way that most good turf horses run exactly like she ran. On top of that is the fact that very few horses are bred to stay the 10 furlong trip and do it competitively leaves one wondering and speechless why Zenyatta wasn’t entered in more 10furlong races instead of staying in 8.5 furlong races over 50% of her career. Or why if these races that include the Woodward and Whitney and JCGC and SA Handicap and HWGC and Pac Classic and Goodwood are so awful why is it that Zenyatta never stepped into those starting gates not one time. Hmm So while some connections want their horse to be campaigned as a champion all year long, the Moss’s only wanted to be called champion on BC day, and that my friends is what is ruining the sport, QR and Blame went their separate ways after the Whitney. The same happened with Flat Out and Tizway this year, protecting records to be able to be in line for yearend honors, unlike the way they campaign in Europe in facing the best all year long. You can't be considered great by taking on the supposed best 1 time per year in an attempt to get honors thru the back door. your campaign has to be worthy, ala Curlin 07/08, Rachel 09, Blame-Blind Luck-goldikova 2010. Im just saying.
Based on my figs, Havre de Grace is the most likely winner Saturday and Flat out a clear second most likely winner. Then Rule and Mambo Mesister. Giant Oak is next most likely but he is much more apt to get a piece than win the whole thing. If you want a live longshot on the card, try Golddigger's Boy (15-1 on ML) in the Forego (Race 9).
Icyhotboo. You are correct when stating that the 2009 Woodward field was what it was. However, the field that competed in the 2009 Woodward and the manner in which they competed in no way can be compared to some of the great fields that contested the Woodward in the past. You could take a field of 5K claimers, have them run within a second of the track record, have a great stretch long battle with one of them prevailing by a nose, and that would be considered a great race. And we have seen this scenario play out so often in the past. However, at the end of the day the race was still a 5K claimer. Put the two horses that hit the wire noses apart in a good quality allowance of in a 20K claiming race and they would perform entirely differently. We have seen that scenario play out many times in the past also. Some people think that time is the most important element in handicapping. Beyers are based solely on time. In how many races does the horse with the best Beyer win? Class is so important, much more important than time. That’s why we have so many level claiming races and a graded stakes system. So, without trying to knock Rachel, if you think that the 2009 Woodward was anywhere near the quality of so many other Woodwards in the past, sorry, but you are wrong. In my estimation, the only weaker Woodward was the 2010.
icyhotboo- I would have never criticized you if you had just stated that. All she could do is face what lined up to race against her. That doesn't mean that you cannot compare fields to determine the strength of competition. I will give you an example of another three year old filly who ran in the Woodward. Her name was Summer Guest. She had battled Susan's Girl all year in her division. When she lost the Beldame to Susan's Girl, that field included the older fillies/mares Typecast and Manta. Birch felt he had to run Summer Guest in the Woodward to try to get the championship. That year, the Woodward was at 12 furlongs. The field in included Key to the Mint, Riva Ridge and Autobiography. She finished second in the race, but was placed third because she crossed over on Autobiography on the first turn. She is never mentioned, basically forgotten. But consider the quality of competition she had to face in her division, in the older filly/mare division and the horses she had to face in her Woodward and a distance of ground that most say is more difficult for females to beat males. Is it fair to say that Rachel, who was a brilliant horse, faced the same caliber of horse? That is all I am trying to point out. It isn't a slam on Rachel because she was a brilliant horse. But racing cannot be a vacuum where one race is isolated and cannot be compared for strength or weakness. I respect your opinion also, and this is just my opinion. No criticism of you is meant or intended. This will be my last post abut it, also. Just wanted to give you an example of where my thinking is coming from.
footlick : you know I respect your views but the point I have been constantly trying to make only to be met with criticism is that Rachel Alexandra faced the best available older horses. I admit they weren't great but as a group they formed a perfect team to put her to the ultimate test and she passed. I really resent when a horse of her caliber isn't given their just due. I would make the same case for any horse of her caliber who was stuck facing the opponent's that were available but not really worthy in the eyes of some. As for speculating on the greatness of horses who never faced each other, especially from different eras well that can be a lot of fun but not very realistic due to track changes, equipment changes, etc. I guess I'm kind of an oddball as I was a fervent fan of both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra and I can relate to the antagonism between the two camps because back in the 60s it was that way with Dr. Fager and Damascus, both truly great horses as I believe these two contemporaries were very special and should have raced against each other a few times.Can you imagine what that would have done for this sport.You were right when you said you needed passion to even post because horses evoke a passion in me that could be called insanity. Have a nice day all and I appreciate your input, pro or con.
Icy, This might be an icy-lated time, but I agree with you.
icyhotboo- but by that definition you cannot ever compare any horse unless they raced in that race in that year. That is a rather existentialistic point of view in regards to horse racing. The only way you can measure the strength or weakness of a field is to compare it to the stellar horses who have won it in the past. They do that for every major race in the world. It has nothing to do with the real world. It has to do with the ability to evaluate the class of horse running. If you really believe what you said then you cannot make any statements regarding any horse other than in the context of the specific race you are talking about. You cannot compare Secretariat to Man O War because they never raced in the same race. You cannot compare Sea-Bird to Ribot because they never raced in the same race. So then there would be no way to evaluate greatness because you are only judging by that particular race without bringing in past standards to compare it to. You have to evaluate by the past to be able to rank the present, imo.
Any elementary fan knows about class. However horses determine their class not us. Take a top allowance horse and put him in with a mediocre grade 3 and the graded hore will win. That was a real tough one. As for Ghostapper, Quality Road, Curlin, Lawyer Ron, Cigar, unfortunately they didn't show up for the 2009 Woodward Stakes but Macho Again and Bullsbay did so I am dealing with the reality instead of the fiction because in anything you do "you play the hand your dealt" and Ladies and Gentlemen I'm talking about the real year 2009 when it happend not when you wanted it to happen and who you want to add to the list of entries. Make valid argument and I'll give consideration to your threads but as of now I choose to live in the real world not some virtual race that never happened. On the other hand you pick a race you think was strong and others think was weak then proceed to make an argument for the winner and after taking your time to do this someone runs out of left field and yells "but Secretariat, Citation, Spectacular Bid, etc. weren't there. This is exactly whats happening.

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