Five things to know for Woodward Day
From top older males on dirt to turf performers to promising two-year-olds, Woodward Day at Saratoga has it all.
Here are five things to know about Saturday at the Spa:
1. Frosted hopes to become the first to turn the Metropolitan H. (G1), Whitney (G1), and Woodward (G1) treble since In Excess (1991). But if he does justify 1-2 favoritism in the Woodward, Frosted doesn’t want the In Excess parallel to hold in every respect.
Despite his record, which also included the 1991 Suburban H. (G1), In Excess wasn’t voted champion older male. That honor, and the Horse of the Year title, went to Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Black Tie Affair. In Excess didn’t compete in the Classic, but opted for the Mile (G1), where he was unplaced behind Opening Verse.
Unless Frosted deposes California Chrome in the November 5 renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, he’ll be hard pressed to make a cogent Eclipse Award case.
Yet a Met/Whitney/Woodward sweep would still put Frosted in exalted historical company. Before In Excess, the only other to hit that triple was the immortal Kelso (1961).
Since the Woodward’s inception in 1954, four have captured the Met Mile and Whitney in the same year without adding the Woodward: Carry Back (1962), who skipped the Woodward in favor of an ambitious tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (where he finished 10th); Criminal Type (sixth in the 1990 Woodward); and more recently, Tizway (2011) and Honor Code (2015), neither of whom competed in the Woodward.
2. Aside from Frosted, Mubtaahij is the only other Woodward contender who represents the world-class formlines of both California Chrome and American Pharoah.
Rising to stardom when based in Dubai with Mike de Kock, the Dubawi colt was a subpar eighth behind American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby (G1). Mubtaahij was a much more creditable fourth in the Belmont (G1). In both jewels of the U.S. Triple Crown, he was beaten by Frosted (who was fourth in the Derby and second in the Belmont). When they next met in the March 26 Dubai World Cup (G1), neither could handle the high-flying California Chrome. But Mubtaahij caught Frosted on an off day and had the satisfaction of turning the tables as they finished second and fifth, respectively.
Mubtaahij has since joined Kiaran McLaughlin and become Frosted’s stablemate. A sneakily good third in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban in his debut for the barn, Mubtaahij is likely to improve second time out. And he gets a six-pound weight break from Frosted. If the odds-on favorite regresses, Mubtaahij has the class in the book to take advantage.
3. Since coming to the United States, Glens Falls (G3) favorite Guapaza has beaten everyone except three stablemates – Olorda, Dacita, and Sea Calisi. The Chilean-bred has none of them to fear on Saturday.
If the pattern continues, however, fellow Chad Brown trainee Ball Dancing could be the danger lurking closer to home. Ball Dancing had back class in France, and appeared well on her way to making a significant impact on the American filly and mare turf division, when sidelined for most of 2015. She’s taken an age to round into form this season, but hinted that she’s getting there with a solid fourth in the Waya (G3). After chasing the free-wheeling Photo Call (who tired to sixth), Ball Dancing hung much tougher until the 12th furlong. A kinder pace dynamic appears in the offing here, and she should enjoy turning back slightly to 11 furlongs. If Ball Dancing still can’t topple Guapaza, she promises to give a good account of herself at 8-1.
4. The Saranac (G3) furnishes another test of the Belmont Derby (G1) form – and a barometer of those who would challenge it. Its merit was underscored at Arlington’s International Festival of Racing. Belmont Derby hero Deauville was a close third to older foes in the Arlington Million (G1), and Belmont Derby alumni Beach Patrol and Long Island Sound ran one-two in the Secretariat (G1).
The form has already been upheld at Saratoga too. Belmont Derby fourth-placer Camelot Kitten came back to take the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), and even the Belmont Derby trailer, Call Provision, rebounded with a rout over state-bred allowance foes. They’ll seek to do so again as two of Brown’s trio in the Saranac.
Brown’s third Saranac hope, Ray’s the Bar, is one of those looking to break the grip of Belmont Derby alumni. An arguably more compelling contender in this category is Shug McGaughey’s Inspector Lynley, a still-developing son of Lemon Drop Kid and Criminologist who exits a bang-up third in the Kent (G3). And precisely because the Belmont Derby form is so good, it will take a good one to buck it.
5. The Spinaway (G1) is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but fans of two-year-old racing have much more to watch at Saratoga.
The Woodward undercard includes three potentially key maiden races. The 3RD, set for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf, marks the debut of Starstruck Kitten, a full brother to Bobby’s Kitten and Camelot Kitten; Frostmourne, a Speightstown half-brother to Karelian; Prize Fight, a son of Tiznow and Scolara; and Cleave, a Smart Strike half-brother to Senada.
Tapwrit, the $1.2 million son of Tapit and 2006 Spinaway winner Appealing Zophie, fittingly begins his career in the 4TH race on Spinaway Day. Among the other bluebloods in the seven-furlong maiden are Juddmonte homebred South Sea; Oxford Circus, a three-quarter brother to Harlem Rocker; and the Bernardini boys, Altito (out of Summerly) and Westwood (out of Hall of Famer Ashado).
The other seven-furlong maiden, the 7TH, has attracted Spieth (wouldn’t you know it, a Godolphin stablemate of Westwood’s), by Bernardini and out of a half-sister to Drosselmeyer; Outrun, a son of Medaglia d’Oro and Indian Vale; Casses Story, a son of Bernardini and Mary’s Follies; and You’re to Blame, a Distorted Humor colt out of a half-sister to Gio Ponti.
As far as pedigree footnotes to the Spinaway go, Tapit is going for a Spinaway exacta with the race’s only two stakes winners, Schuylerville (G3) romper Sweet Loretta and Debutante heroine Pretty City Dancer (a half-sister to Lear’s Princess). Bernardini is trying to sire two Spinaway winners in a row, if Cherry Lodge can follow in the hoofsteps of Rachel’s Valentina, both trained by Todd Pletcher. Cherry Lodge would be the fourth graded winner produced by Wilshewed, following Stormello, My Best Brother, and her own brother, Gala Award. And if Runway Doll runs like her 13-length maiden win, she might be the next star filly by Majestic Warrior, after Princess of Sylmar.
Frosted photo courtesy of Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos