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Whisper Hill Farm’s dual graded stakes-winning Kentucky homebred Charge It will strive for a return to the win column in Saturday’s 70th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodward for 3-year-olds and upward going nine furlongs at Belmont at the Big A.
The Woodward is carded as Race 7 on Saturday’s 11-race action-packed program which also includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the Grade 2, $250,000 Vosburgh – a “Win And You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4 at Santa Anita – and the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom. First post is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Charge It enters the Woodward from a distant fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course. There, he raced in between horses when a close fifth down the backstretch and was shuffled back to last-of-6 around the far turn before moving to the rail and making a run under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, but finished 10 lengths behind the victorious White Abarrio. This effort came following a pacesetting 4 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 8 going 10 furlongs at Belmont Park, where the 4-year-old gray son of Tapit made amends from three straight losses at graded stakes level.
Charge It displayed talent during his sophomore season, finishing a game second to White Abarrio in the Grade 1 Florida Derby last April at Gulfstream Park before finishing 17th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. He rounded out his 2022 campaign with a 23-length romp in the Grade 3 Dwyer going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
A victory would provide Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with his fifth Woodward conquest. Pletcher, who saddled last year’s winner Life Is Good, will look to be the first trainer to secure back-to-back Woodwards since fellow Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen saddled Curlin  and Rachel Alexandra .
“He’s excellent. I’m very happy with the way he’s been training,” said Pletcher, whose other Woodward winners include Lawyer Ron , Quality Road , and Liam’s Map . “Hopefully, he gets back to one of his best races. Johnny felt like maybe he made a bit of a mistake with him [in the Whitney], but I thought he ran decently, I just didn’t think he ran his ‘A’ race.”
Charge It recently breezed an easy half-mile in 51.55 seconds on Saturday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.
“His last breeze was very good,” Pletcher said. “I think the way he’s been training and the little bit of extra time since the Whitney hopefully has him in peak form.”
Charge It is out of the Indian Charlie mare I’ll Take Charge, whose Grade 1-winning dam Take Charge Lady produced 2013 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt Will Take Charge, Grade 1-winner Take Charge Indy and Charming – the dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire and freshman sire Omaha Beach as well as 2014 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Take Charge Brandi.
Velazquez, a four-time Woodward-winning jockey, will maintain the mount aboard Charge It from post 1.
This year’s Woodward will get a touch of international flavor in the form of Rabbah Bloodstock’s Algiers, who will emerge from a six-month hiatus after finishing second in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan Racecourse. Trained by Simon Crisford, the 6-year-old Shamardal chestnut began the season with a pair of open-lengths victories in the first two rounds of the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan Racecourse.
Ed Crisford, the son and assistant to Simon, said Algiers’ time off following the Dubai World Cup was beneficial.
“He’s come out of his break really well,” Crisford said. “He’s big, strong and moving great and he has great attitude. He’s training just as good if not better than in Dubai over the winter. This will be his first run since Dubai, so I’m sure he’ll improve for the run. He’s as fit as we can get him at home without running him. We’re really pleased with his progress. There should be some top horses in there, but I think he’ll run a big race nevertheless.
“He really progressed through his races. He won the Maktoum Challenge in great style, but he had to go out and do it again to prove it wasn’t a long time fluke,” Crisford continued. “But he did it again and that’s when we started to dream about the Dubai World Cup. His performance in the Dubai World Cup was so good. In that last eighth, he got a little leg weary. But it was a good performance, he was in good form and I’m sure he’ll have a good campaign all the way through Dubai and Saudi. We’ll see where he goes.”
Algiers will attempt to become the first Irish-bred to capture the Woodward since 1999 winner River Keen and first internationally bred horse since Chilean-bred Lido Palace scored back-to-back Woodwards in 2001-02.
Bred by Godolphin, Algiers is out of the Platini mare Antara – a group-stakes winner in Germany and England, who was also Group 1-placed in England, France and Italy.
William Buick will ship across the pond to pilot Algiers from post 3.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown will saddle Jeff Drown’s Zandon [post 4, Flavien Prat], who finished second to White Abarrio in the Whitney last out.
Third in last year’s Kentucky Derby, Zandon earned Grade 1 honors when securing a 2 1/2-length victory in the Blue Grass last April going the Woodward distance at Keeneland. After finishing in the money in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers as well as the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, the 4-year-old Upstart colt finished fourth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile presented by NYRA Bets in December at the Big A – his lone off-the-board effort in 12 lifetime starts. This year, Zandon has finished second in all three of his efforts, rounding out the exacta in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Westchester in May and Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap in June en route to the Whitney.
Zandon was purchased for $170,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Creative Cause mare Memories Prevail – a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Cairo Memories.
Brown will also saddle John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock Services’ Grade 1-placed Pipeline [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche], who was a last-out fourth in the Grade 1 Forego on August 26 at Saratoga – a race where he finished third last year. The son of Speightstown seeks his first trip to the winner’s circle since an allowance triumph last April at Aqueduct.
Pipeline is out of the Empire Maker mare Vivo Per Lei, who was dual graded stakes-placed on grass.
Belmont at the Big A
Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Stretch Run Ventures’ Kentucky homebred Tyson [post 8, Javier Castellano] will make another trip to the Empire State after finishing a game third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 2 at Saratoga for Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Josie Carroll. The 4-year-old gray son of Tapit saw dirt for the first time in his last effort after previously racing exclusively over all weather tracks. He captured Woodbine Racetrack’s Grade 3 Dominion Day on July 1 before securing a win in the Grade 2 Seagram Cup four weeks later.
Tyson is out of the Smart Strike mare Honouring, whose dam Teeming was conditioned by Carroll. She also trained Honouring’s stakes-winning full-sibling Treasuring as well as a pair of half-siblings in stakes-winner Cascading and stakes-placed Distracting. All hail from the prominent bloodlines of Better Than Honour and Reine de Course mare Best in Show.
Last year’s Woodward runner up Law Professor [post 2, Manny Franco] seeks a victory in this year’s running while emerging from a four-month layoff for trainer Rob Atras. The 5-year-old son of Constitution was last seen finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 19 at its namesake track, but posted some of his best efforts over the Big A going. A 7 1/2-length winner of the January 7 Queens County in his 2023 debut, Law Professor schooled his competition two starts later with a 4 1/4-length win in the Excelsior on April 1 over a muddy and sealed Big A main track.
“A just off-the-pace scenario is probably best for him,” said Atras. “He’s a little bit versatile – he can sit close or be right on the pace if he needs to be or a little further back. He’s looking really good right now.”
Law Professor, a Kentucky homebred for Twin Creeks Racing Stable, is out of the Ghostzapper mare Haunted Heroine – a dual stakes winner on turf. His second dam Mona Mia produced Grade 1-winning turf millionaire Celestine.
Completing the field are the Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained O’Connor [post 9, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] who enters from a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, and the Linda Rice-trained trio of Costa Terra [post 6, Jose Lezcano], Un Ojo [post 7, Trevor McCarthy], and Film Star [post 10, Jose Ortiz].
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