Saratoga Woodward Day JUMP START

frosted credit Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

The JUMP START comes into the last week of the Saratoga meet riding high off the pick of Arrogate at 11-to-1 odds to win the Travers! I highly touted Arrogate in the JUMP START and made him my top pick on the podcast after the draw. He came through with a huge performance running the fastest Travers EVER!

Travers Day overall was an amazing experience and I documented the whole day in my LIVE BLOG that you can find here with photos of all of the winners on the big day. After Drefong won the King’s Bishop, I noted in the LIVE BLOG that Arrogate had been working with Drefong in the mornings at Del Mar for trainer Bob Baffert and felt even more confident in my top Travers pick.

It was still bumpy early in the day, as playing against Cavorting in the Personal Ensign was the wrong move and Haveyougoneaway surprised me in the Ballerina. With A.P. Indian, Flintshire and Arrogate, though, the day picked up and the Pick-3 and Pick-4 were hit with my strategy set forth in last week’s JUMP STARTs, so I hope you cashed!

As we’ve done all meet, we’ll attempt to not “regurgitate” the Past Performances and go beyond in the JUMP START to provide an analysis of the Graded Stakes fields coming up including: injury and insider news, trainer talk, pace analysis, trip notes from previous races, workout evaluations and links to key replays to evaluate for the big races.

For the last weekend of the meet, we’ll be splitting up the JUMP START into two parts: this part here focusing on the Woodward Day card with four Graded Stakes and the rest of closing weekend (Sunday and Monday) gets its own JUMP START here at this link.

So without further delay, let’s jump into Woodward day:

Sat., Sep. 3, Grade-1 Woodward, $600,000 purse, 3 year olds & up, 1 & 1/8 miles (Dirt)

One of the stars of the game, Frosted, will headline closing weekend and will try to keep his hot streak rolling into the Woodward for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. With already a paid expense trip to the Breeders’ Cup (BC) in California as a result of his Grade-1 romps in the Met Mile (BC Dirt Mile) and Whitney (BC Classic), McLaughlin will use the Woodward as most likely Frosted’s last prep before the BC Classic.

McLaughlin has said that Frosted fires best off a long rest and with the BC Classic as the team’s main goal, the Woodward will give Frosted a nine week lay-off to prep for his potential big showdown with California Chrome for supremacy above the older male ranks.

Additionally, Frosted has been training in Saratoga at the Greentree Training Center since his return from Dubai (except for a few days down in Belmont for the Met Mile). Keeping Frosted happy at his home where he has been thriving is of the utmost importance to his Godolphin connections.

With that being said, the Woodward comes only four weeks after his hand-ridden win in the Whitney. Does that make Frosted a bit vulnerable in here off a “short” lay-off? After his two huge performances, is he due for a big bounce? It will be tough to play against Frosted at the same distance of the Whitney at a track that he has loved including good performances in the 2015 Jim Dandy and Travers.

McLaughlin also will saddle Mubtaahij, most recently third to Effinex and Samraat in the Grade-2 Suburban Handicap. That was Mubtaahij’s first race under the care of McLaughlin as he had previously been trained by Mike de Kock during his three-year old campaign, which included state-side races in the 2015 Belmont Stakes (fourth place finish) and Kentucky Derby (eighth place). Mubtaahij poses possibly the biggest threat to Frosted since he did beat him getting second in the $10 million Group-1 Dubai World Cup in March.


Mubtaahij chowing down at the McLaughlin barn in Saratoga in early August (Photo: Michael Spector)

The front-end should have a very strong pace presence in the ultra-hot Bradester, who carries a three-race win streak including victories in the Grade-1 Stephen Foster and Grade-2 Monmouth Cup. The Foster win gave Bradester a free ride into the BC Classic, but trainer Eddie Kenneally has said that he may still opt for the BC Dirt Mile. Even though the Foster win came at 1 & 1/8 miles, Bradester got away setting slow fractions against a weaker field that day to win. His best distance may be shorter than this trip, but he’s always a threat to wire the field if not pressed early.

New York-bred Samraat for trainer Rick Violette may be one looking to press and is one of the toughest horses in the division, as far as a gutty horse that tries every time. His second-place finish in the Suburban was in front of Mubtaahij and only a neck behind a top older male in Effinex. He had an injury-prone 2015, but has been sharp in his four starts in 2016. Still, he hasn’t won a race since the Grade-3 Gotham to start March 2014, so he’s only a threat to hit the board.

Shaman Ghost is an intriguing entry in the Woodward after he failed to fire in the Suburban finishing fifth for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.  Before that, he won the 1 1/2 mile Grade-2 Brooklyn on Belmont Stakes day by over 4 lengths. With a little time off, he may be dangerous here if he gets the proper pace set-up.

The field of nine will be completed by Tale of Verve (who won at Saratoga on July 23 in an allowance race over a field of mostly three-year olds), Tapin Mojo (won a $12,500 claimer three back and lost by 22 lengths in the Suburban so he’s not in this class), Breaking Lucky (winner of the Grade-3 Seagram Cup at Woodbine last out) and Catholic Cowboy (who last finished fourth in the slop on July 31 at Saratoga in an allowance).

BOTTOM LINE: This field shouldn’t give Frosted any issues, since he has shown the versatility to get on the pace or close, if needed. If Bradester breaks on top and Samraat follows, Frosted should be able to get a stalking trip if jockey Joel Rosario decides he want to sit back. Mubtaahij is a grinder and will be involved throughout, too. The only way to play this race is to single Frosted in multi-race wagers and try to hit some longer prices in adjoining legs.

Sat., Sep. 3, Grade-1 Spinaway, $350,000 purse, 2 year-old fillies, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)

This “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies will bring together the top two-year old fillies on the east coast.

Sweet Loretta may top this group. She got the JUMP START off to a huge start on opening day at Saratoga when we tabbed her as the top choice in the Grade-3 Schuylerville. She came through with an impressive win and I was the guy in the winners’ circle screaming! After that she has a special place in my heart (and wallet), but I have learned in this game to not get too attached to a horse. I try to tell myself to not get so connected to a horse based on a big win that you blindly bet her every race going forward. She got the perfect fast pace set-up that day for trainer Todd Pletcher and took advantage of it, so I have to cautiously approach this race with top competition coming in.

Pletcher also is entering Cherry Lodge, a front-running maiden winner at Saratoga on August 7. She gives away one race in experience to Sweet Loretta since that is her only lifetime start. Pletcher won this race last year with Rachel’s Valentina off only one start at Saratoga, so he may look to pull the same trick with Cherry Lodge this year. Sired by Bernardini, Cherry Lodge should have no issues with the stretch out from 5½ furlongs to 7 furlongs here.

Runway Doll was an eye-catching 13½-length maiden winner for Hall-of-Fame trainer Steve Asmussen on July 31, but that win was in the slop. Her only performance being in the slop concerns me here. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay bought a half-interest in Runway Doll after her maiden win, so she probably is getting some good cooking coming into this spot.

Pretty City Dancer won the non-graded Debutante on July 2 at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse. After the race, Casse said that he would wait to run her in this spot coming off a two-month layoff. She has been working steadily at Saratoga since the beginning of August.

The field will be completed by Fun (Schuylerville runner-up for trainer Ian Wilkes), Special Risk (maiden for trainer Rudy Rodriguez who finished behind Olive Branch in her debut and Bowie on opening day at Saratoga) and You Know Too (for owner/trainer Michael Gorham and has been running at Delaware Park).

BOTTOM LINE: As I said before, I am biased here and will probably try to make another score with Sweet Loretta and possibly get a price on her again with new competition in here. In multi-race wagers, this is a “spread race” because juvenile fillies are probably the most unpredictable type of race to handicap. Any of these can jump up in this spot and I will make sure to have proper coverage looking for a price.

Sweet Loretta

Sweet Loretta at the Pletcher barn in early August (lives up to her name as one of the sweetest, nicest horses that I visited all meet) (Photo: Michael Spetor)

Sat., Sep. 3, Grade-3 Saranac, $300,000 purse, 3 year olds, 1 & 1/8 miles (Turf)

Camelot Kitten headlines this group after his Grade-2 win in the Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga on August 5.  Camelot Kitten has won three of his last four races in Grade-2 and Grade-3 stakes and is the class of the race for the meet’s leading trainer Chad Brown. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. fits him like a glove with his late-close, one-run style as he’s won by a nose, neck and head in those three races. The 1 & 1/8 mile distance should be in his zone as he won the Grade-3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont at this distance.

Strike Midnight has steadily climbed the class ladder for trainer Leah Gyarmati and getting jockey Javier Castellano in the Hall of Fame definitely helped him finish third. We’ll see if he keeps the mount with a few other Chad Brown entries in here.

One of those for Brown is top prospect Call Provision. After an impressive third in the Pennine Ridge, the waters got deep too quick for him in the Belmont Derby, as he finished last in a field of 13. Brown returned him at Saratoga in a New York-bred allowance at Saratoga on August 11. He throttled the field that day as one of the easiest favorites of the meet.

Another horse for the Brown barn that needed a confidence builder was Ray’s the Bar, who took a 1 & 3/16-mile first-level allowance on July 30 at Saratoga. Chad Brown is amazing at placing horses in spots where they can win and is one of the main reasons why he is the leading trainer at the meet. Ray’s the Bar hadn’t won a race since his win at Royal Ascot over a year ago, so needed that one to get back on track. Highly thought of after that Ascot performance, maybe Ray is about to turn the tables.

Isotherm returned off a 7-month lay-off to run a non-threatening fifth in the Hall of Fame.  After winning the Grade-3 Pilgrim last year as a two-year old, he was one of the most highly touted juvenile turf horses in the country.  Trainer George Weaver decided to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on dirt and the results were a poor 13th place out of 14 runners.  Maybe second off the bench he’ll be ready to fire a big one.

The field will be completed with Inspector Lynley (for Shug McGaughey and his hit the board in two Grade-3 stakes) and Copingaway (who lit up the board at 26-to-1 odds at Saratoga on August 19 in an optional claimer with jockey Ricardo Santana up for trainer Jaime Mejia).

BOTTOM LINE: If the three Chad Brown trainees were entered as an entry, then we may be looking at 1/5 odds. It’s tough to think that either Camelot Kitten, Call Provision or Ray’s the Bar won’t win here with the way Brown has been winning Graded-stakes at the Saratoga meet on the turf. The pace may not be very hot in here, but still Camelot Kitten should have enough to close into to make him the top pick  I’ll try to mix in Isotherm underneath in exotic plays if I can get a price.

Sat., Sep. 3, Grade-3 Glens Falls, $200,000 purse, Fillies & Mares 3 years old & up, 1 & 3/8 miles (Turf)

Just like the Saranac, the Glens Falls reunites Guapaza, Suffused, and Achnaha, the first three finishers in the Grade-3 Waya at Saratoga on August 6.

And just like the Saranac, Chad Brown looks tough to beat here with Guapaza. Since coming to the United States, she has hit the board in all five of her races including two Grade-2 and two Grade-3 stakes. This is a slight cut-back from the 1 ½ miles of the Waya, but she has shown to be effective at this distance running second behind top female distance turfer and recent Grade-1 Beverly D. winner, Sea Calisi, in the Grade-2 Sheepshead Bay in May at Belmont.

Suffused was closing like a rocket in the Waya for trainer Bill Mott and will need to track down Guapaza here with less distance. She has been more effective going longer, so this distance may be a little short.

Achnaha for trainer George Weaver also was closing well in the Waya and proved that she could win at this distance in allowance company at Belmont three back.

If you’re looking for a pace play, then the Grade-1 winner Photo Call is always a good bet to be out on the early lead. She faded late in the closing stages of the Waya, but the shorter distance may be right for her. Since moving from the Graham Motion barn to the Pletcher barn, though, she has not been a top turf distance female like she was in 2015.

Another mare that hasn’t been at the same level as 2015 is Ball Dancing. As another entered for Brown, Ball Dancing will try to regain the magic that she showed winning the Grade-1 Jenny Wiley in 2015. This year she has yet to hit the board.

Itsonlyactingdad ran a very strong Grade-3 Matchmaker at Monmouth closing to win on July 31.  Pletcher’s charge has a long history of performing well at the highest level including a late closing second in the 2015 Grade-1 Belmont Oaks behind Lady Eli.

Likely entries include Arles (French-bred making her United States debut for trainer Andreas Wohler after running in Germany her last eight races), Gap Year (the 20-to-1 longshot allowance winner for McLaughlin and Godolphin that blew up the board before the CCA Oaks making the Songbird Pick-3 one of the best bets of the Saratoga meet), Miss Chatelaine (Christophe Clement trainee who has consistently flirted with top company, but has yet to break-through in a Graded stakes) and Modernstone (a first-time trained by Clement that is coming off a 10 month lay-off).

BOTTOM LINE: I’m going chalky on this card and going to look to pound the Pick-3 and Pick-4 hard multiple times. I can’t trust Photo Call or Ball Dancing to find their 2015 form all of a sudden and Guapaza looks too tough for the rest. Guapaza is a straight-forward choice here. The back-up plays are Suffused based on the way she was closing strong in the Waya and Itsonlyactingdad based on her back-class.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim for coverage on Saturday from the track.

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