Shapiro explores a $40 bet for the Woodward Stakes
by Scott Shapiro
The 2018 Woodward Stakes (G1) did not attract anyone near the talent of last year’s winner and Horse of the Year Gun Runner, but it certainly is a challenging analytical puzzle for handicappers to unpack.
The $750,000 event run at 1 1/8 miles over the Saratoga main track attracted a full field of 14 led by the return to Saratoga of 4-1-morning line favorite #9 Gunnevera. The runner-up in last year’s Travers Stakes (G1) makes his second start of the form cycle after a dominant 6 ½ length score at odds of 1 to 9 in a high-level optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. The son of Dialed In has a win and a second over this surface and should move forward after the race off the bench in Florida. However, the late running four-year-old colt will need an honest early pace to run into if he wants to best this bunch. I am not sure he gets it.
#10 Seeking the Soul also does his best running from off the pace for trainer Dallas Stewart. The five-year-old returns off a six-week freshening after disappointing his backers as the 1 to 2 chalk in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand. That was his first try in over 5 months, so perhaps he needed the race. Much like Gunnevera, the son of Perfect Soul will need to avoid significant ground loss from his outside draw if he wants a serious chance to earn his sixth lifetime victory. I prefer him the most of the top 4 choices on odds maker David Aragona’s morning line, but I still do not trust him.
#1 Yoshida makes his first start over the dirt after racing ten times over the sod for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The Heart’s Cry colt has a pair of graded stakes victories under his belt over the lawn, including a ¾ length score in the Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, but the unknown of the main track and a pair of lackluster efforts since the triumph over the yielding going in early May make him a fade for me on Saturday afternoon.
2017 Belmont Stakes winner #4 Tapwrit has not won since capturing the third leg of the Triple Crown last June, but I can forgive his last effort over a sloppy going in the Whitney (G1). The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners runner has never hit the board in 3 tries at the Spa, but has faced better fields than this one in his last two. That being said he has not moved forward in his four-year-old season for Todd Pletcher. Perhaps he will appreciate a race where he is not chasing Diversify from the start, but I prefer others in this year’s Woodward.
If the pace is moderate perhaps #12 Sunny Ridge can spring the upset for trainer Jason Servis. The Jersey-bred saved ground a few lengths off the early pace in the State Dinner Stakes at Belmont in early July and won going away earning a 101 BRIS speed rating under leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. The five-year-old gelding is unlikely to get the same cozy trip he got last time out from the 12-hole, but he has hit the board in all 3 tries in 2018 and has the tactical early zip to angle in and avoid an extremely wide voyage. At his 8 to 1 morning line or higher he merits consideration.
#7 Kurilov was three-wide on the backstretch, but he appeared on his way to the winners’ circle in the Alydar on August 5th before tiring late and being caught at the wire by Realm. The son of Lookin At Lucky had raced over the turf in each of his first 4 starts of 2018 prior to his effort earlier in the meet for leading trainer Chad Brown, but his career best performances have come over the main track so a strong showing in the Saturday feature is certainly a possibility. The fact he should be prominently placed by jockey Jose Ortiz is a positive. I will include.
If you are looking for a longshot with a chance perhaps #13 Zanotti can outrun his odds. The son of Gio Ponti has put forth a pair of triple-digit BRIS speed ratings in his last two starts, including a career best 105 in his runner-up effort to Name Changer in The Monmouth Cup (G3) late last month. The Ten Strike Racing gelding will need to avoid regression in his third start of the form cycle and the 13-post is far from ideal, but the price compensates for the concerns.
$2 Exacta Box 7+12+13 = $12
$3 Exacta Box 7+10+12 = $18
$10 Win 12 = $10 (If 8 to 1 or higher)
Total Budget = $40
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(Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos)