Predicteform Woodward Stakes Preview

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Ed DeRosa

August 29th, 2014

In-depth analysis of the Woodward Stakes including Pace Figures and Form Cycle Patterns of each starter. Please refer to the Legend or Pattern Guide for back-up definitions and patterns.

The $600,000 Grade I Woodward Stakes is run at 9 furlongs for three year-olds and up. TV Coverage starts at 6pm ET on NBC Sports with the Forego Stakes, followed by the Woodward which goes to post at 6:46 pm ET.

Get the Pace Figures and Past Performances for the Woodward Stakes.
Itsmyluckday (5-2)

Here's what we had to say about Itsmyluckday prior to the Whitney:

A serious racehorse in his 3 year-old year, Itsmyluckyday ran second in the 2013 Preakness before getting injured in June 2013. Over the course of the last three races he has quickly rounded back into form most recently posting an 81.5 Final Pace Figure. Speaking of his last race and the 81.5, if you watch the replay (which we encourage), jockey Paco Lopez spent more time looking back than forward, letting him coast to the wire in almost a goofy coasting style, clearly indicating he had more in the tank. The Play: Value Play – The 81.5 final figure in his last gets IMLD right in the mix, and while it was a lifetime top (which is of some concern), the style in which he won the race and his back class make for a value bet.

Visually speaking, his Whitney effort was good. Jockey Paco Lopez kept him on the rail and saved ground, however, at the top of the stretch, the rail was wide open and Lopez decided to swing out as Moreno veered in. There was plenty of room on the rail which leads one to believe the jockey probably thought his horse had another gear, which never quite kicked in.

His Pace Figure in the Whitney was a 78.4, a three point regression from his previous top which was expected, as noted above, but still competitive in this field.

The Play: Regressor – Given his 3 point regression and the lack of a real kick in the Whitney make this morning line second choice tough to back at what will be likely 2:1 odds at post time.

Long River (8/1)

Here's what we had to say about Long River prior to the Stephen Foster on 6/13.

Another runner off a New Pace Top (NPT), he has four consecutive Form Cycle Patterns and 8 of 11 lifetime races with a pattern. His most recent effort of 80.9/83.3 (NPT at Charlestown a 1/2 mile track) is impressive. The big question is whether a 10 point jump in his 4f figure and back-to-back ~81 final times are sustainable, though double–digit odds are enticing.

The 76.3 final figure in the Stephen Foster (6/14) was a 4.5 point regression, however he did move forward off that race to a 78.2 most recently. Looking back over his last five races, Long River's final figures are 77.4, 81, 80.9, 76.3 and 78.2. It looks like he has established a threshold in the high 70's and ta series of Form Cycle Patterns is a good sign in this case (as he is running within his own).

Rose Napravnik rode Long River for the first time last out and it looked like she really struggled with him, seemingly unable to handle him on the first (and last) turn and choked him back to 8th midway through the race. He finished evenly while being very wide and not losing ground in the stretch. Not surprisingly, his regular rider, Jose Ortiz hops back aboard. His biggest knock is he has hit the board in only one of six Graded Stakes Races.

The Play: Contender – The return back to his best distance of 9f combined with the jockey switch back and the firm Final Pace Figure foundation makes him the value play.

Micromanage (8/1)

A proven distance router, Micromanage has raced at 14, 10 and 12 furlongs in his last three efforts. Diving deeper into his last three starts, we'll start with the Brooklyn on 6/7.

He sat patiently stalking the entire trip and made a strong move around the far turn but faltered deep in the stretch while drifting out (letting Norumbega get by him at the wire). They went almost 1:39 for the mile which can be best interpeted from a Pace Figure perspective by looking at his 4f and 6f figures, both 58. And, while his final figure was a 78, he increased 20 points between 6f and 12f, thus making it likely that his 9f figure was somewhere in the mid 70's, more likely a figure we would consider.

As noted above, he was one of the five runners (in this race) who could not make up ground on the outside in the Suburban finishing with a 75.3 final. His most recent effort was more of a workout than a race. In the unusual distance of 14 furlongs, Micromanage stalked the entire trip and easily pulled away at the wire under an all-out drive by jockey Javier Castellano. This was likely instructed by trainer Todd Pletcher to make sure the horse kept his head in the game (vs. a loafing win and possible SOFT pattern). His 80.5 final figure also has to be discounted as the # of comparative races at this rare distance of 14 furlongs can skew final figures a bit higher. And while no 4f or 6f figures are available, it is interesting to note that the leader of the race went 1:15 - 6f and 1:40 – 1 mile, five seconds behind Moreno's front running splits in the Whitney.

The Play: Too Slow – He likely will be mid pack and his lack of a quick “turn of foot” and grinding style is not suited for 9f. Loss of leading jockey Javier Castellano doesn't help either.

Moreno (2/1)

Here's what we had to say about Moreno prior to the Whitney.

With only two wins from 19 lifetime starts, Moreno has the least wins and lowest winning percentage in the field. His trainer, Eric Guillot is still eating crow after last year's ridiculous accusations following the Travers. Moreno is an example of a true front runner, a horse who has to be on the lead to have a chance to win. Supporting the notion that Moreno loves the lead, you can see a number of his 4 furlong figures are in the mid to high 70's, considered very high for a 9 furlong race. Also, note his “bullet work (the fastest of the day) on 7/26 which looks like a strong tune-up for a front running speed ball. The Play: Fringe Contender – Final Pace Figures are a couple points short of the best, but the track has been favoring speed and if he gets an uncontested speed, Moreno could hit the board.

As noted by The Play above, Moreno did in fact get an uncontested lead and was able to go wire to wire, a tough thing to do in a Grade 1. Watching the replay, he was truly never challenged (no horse was within a length). He did drift wide at the top of the stretch but a couple taps of the whip and he went back to the rail and never was in doubt. Note he does pick up 5 lbs and while not normally a big issue, he is 0 for 8 when carrying over 120 lbs. His only work after his Whitney start was a 59.1 on August 24th, the fastest time of the day at the distance.

The Play: Fringe Contender – His average 4f Pace Figure (off the basic view) of 72.6 is a couple points higher than his nearest competitor which means he might not be pressed again on the lead, though the added distance and extra weight could neutralize that advantage. The major knock is his expected short price and if he is the race favorite, it will be the FIRST time in his racing career to have that pressure.

Prayer for Relief (12/1)

The oldest runner in the field at six, Prayer for Relief has career earnings of $1.85 million, the highest in the field. He has gone off at 48:1 and 25:1 odds in his last two starts and while he did finish 4th and 3rd, which could be considered “out-running” his odds, neither race was impressive from a Pace Figure perspective.

His most recent final figure of 75.2 was regression off a 76.9 effort on 7/5. He showed a consistent ability to run a CPT (Cyclical Pace Top, which is when an older horse runs his fastest 4f figure as compared to the 10 previous races while putting in a solid final figure). This pattern should have shown his last race on 8/2, but instead he regressed.

In terms of his visual effort, jockey Joel Rosario stayed on the rail and followed Zivo, which was a very smart move and the only way to make up lengths in the Whitney. This insider rail trip both inflated his finish and final figure. Rosario gets off Prayer for Relief (to ride the outside horse Stephanoatsee) and Johnnie V hops aboard.

The Play: Regressor – cagey veteran runner has things pointing the wrong direction and therefore has more of a chance to regress than not.

Romansh (8/1)

Another that ran in the Suburban, Romansh has been beaten a combined 19th lengths in his last two starts.

His Final Pace Figures are tailing off from 81.9 - 79.3 – 75.3 to 72.7 most recently. Using the basic view, he's got the second highest 4f average in the field behind Moreno which becomes interesting for one reason; Romansh and Long River share the same owner. This could likely give him even more incentive to go for the lead.

The Play: Regressor – a nine point final figure drop over four races is a clear indication of regression as it is spread over five months.

Zivo (5/1)

He comes out of the Suburban Handicap where he beat six others in here coming from last. Watching the replay, the pace was very fast (three-fifths of a second faster to the half-mile than the Whitney), especially given the 10 furlong route distance. The only two horses able to make up ground in the stretch were Zivo and Prayer for Relief (who also finished a fast closing fourth on the rail), while the rest of the group all hung (meaning no one outside could make up lengths). This rail favoring bias should be noted for Zivo and Prayer for Relief.

Turning to his Pace Figures, we were not surprised to see Zivo run well in the Suburban as he was coming into the race on a NPT (New Pace Top is the fastest 4f figure combined with a final figure that is close to a lifetime top without going over). What is interesting to note was his 78.0/59.5 (final/4f) in the Suburban. He ran a SOFT Form Cycle Pattern (when a dirt horse wins a race with final and 4f figures below its most recent effort). In this case, the pattern can be somewhat misleading as the final figures were about the same 78 and 79, while the 4f figures went from 71.7 to 59. This decrease of 12 points was attributable to the very fast 4 furlong time of 46.4 with a bunch of horses competing for the lead in a 10 furlong race.

Trainer Chad Brown is putting on a clinic at Saratoga and Zivo is undefeated in five starts in 2014. The last win was his first in Graded Stakes company and clearly the breakout performance of his career.

The Play: Fringe Contender – This strong closer shortens up to 9 furlongs for his first try in Grade 1 competition. He should have value if he can stay above the 5:1 mark.

Norumbega (10/1)

Another runner who went wide down the stretch in the Suburban, it was not surprising to see Norumbega unable to really advance. The winner of the Brooklyn, Norumbega inhaled Micromanage in the late stages at 12 furlongs. He cuts back to 9 furlongs, arguably his best distance.

Looking at his Pace Figures, he ran a lifetime top 79 on 3/29 after a five month layoff. Not surprising, he regressed following to a 72.5. What is interesting to note is he moved forward off that regression to a 77.9 and last out ran a 75, which was discounted due to the way the race unfolded, wide down the stretch. He should appreciate the shorter distance as he can stalk close to the lead. A couple other interesting notes – leading Jockey Javier Castellano rides for the first time, trainer Shug McGaughey adds blinkers again for the first time (and possible signal he could be closer to the lead) and finally, he's got an nicely spaced work pattern of five works with a bullet on 8/24. It's a strong tune-up prior to this Grade 1.

The Play: Fringe Contender – Lots to like about this colt, most of which is mentioned above. The morning line price of 10-1 makes it more enticing.

Last Gunfighter (15/1)

You have to give it up for owner John Gunther as he refuses to shy away from any stage. In 2013 he won four Graded Stakes races while also competing in the Breeders' Cup Classic running a pretty good 5th, while sustaining Final Pace Figures in the 77-78 range.

Such is not the case with his two most recent efforts – a 74.7 in the Suburban, finishing 9th and behind six others in this race and a 74.5 final figure in the Whitney where he finished a distant fifth. Leading jockey Javier Castellano exits and Joe Bravo gets the mount.

The Play: Too Slow – looks like he is consistently running a 74 – 75 which isn't enough in here.

Stephanoatsee (30/1)

A Graded Stakes competitor earlier in his career, Stephanoatsee has been relegated to an optional claiming runner against horses worth $80,000. His recent top of 75.6 was followed by a 74 and most recently 73.8

Oddly enough, Joel Rosario hops aboard, which likely means he was moved off the other two starters he rode last time (Prayer for Relief and Norumbega).

The Play: Too Slow – even his bullet work on 8/24 is not enough to think he can improve four points and be competitive with this group.