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ELMONT, NY – Godolphin homebred Maxfield is among the field of six males entered in the $500,000 Woodward (G1), one of three graded stakes on Saturday’s Champagne Stakes (G1) undercard at Belmont Park.
Joining the Woodward on the 11-race card are the $200,000 Miss Grillo (G2) and the $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational (G3). First post is 1:00 PM Eastern.
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With 3 graded stakes wins this year, Maxfield has established himself as one of the leaders in the older horse division. On Saturday, the son of Street Sense will vie to add a Grade 1 victory to his 4-year-old campaign in the 68th running of the 9-furlong Woodward, which returns to Belmont Park for the first time since 2005.
Previously held at Saratoga Race Course, the Woodward was inaugurated in 1954 at Belmont Park and also was run several times at Aqueduct before being moved to Saratoga.
Maxfield, who boasts a consistent 9-7-1-1 record with over $1.45 million in earnings, arrives off a runner-up effort to Knicks Go in the Whitney (G1) on August 7 at Saratoga. Trainer Brendan Walsh saddled the 4-year-old son of Street Sense to back-to-back scores in the Alysheba (105 Beyer) on April 30 and Stephen Foster (103 Beyer) on June 26, both Grade 2 events at Churchill Downs.
A winner on debut going a one-turn mile in September 2019 at Churchill Downs, Maxfield became a Grade 1 winner in his second career start when capturing the Breeders’ Futurity going two turns at Keeneland, where he made up nearly 10 lengths from ninth to win by 5 1/2 lengths – his largest margin of victory to date.
Walsh said earning a Grade 1 triumph as an older horse is crucial for Maxfield.
“It’s absolutely important, especially with a horse like him, who we always thought would get better as he gets older,” Walsh said. “For his stallion career and everything, it would be very important to get a Grade 1 win in him this year.”
Lightly raced for a horse of his level, Maxfield has done the bulk of his racing this year having raced a cumulative 4 times at ages 2 and 3, all of which were wins. He kicked off a successful year with a 3 1/4-length win in the Mineshaft (G3) in February at Fair Grounds before suffering his first loss in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) 3 weeks later.
“I think it all has helped. Thinking back at this point last year, this horse had only run 3 times in his career and he was about to turn 4,” Walsh said. “We’ve always been on the back foot as far as seasoning and racing experience goes. I think we saw an advance on him in the Whitney because he ran right through the wire, which I was pleased to see him do. It all bodes well for the races ahead.”
Walsh expressed no concern with cutting back to one turn from the two-turn Whitney.
“I think it suits him if anything,” Walsh said. “He should love the sweeping turns here. He seems to run his turns very well, which is probably the strongest part of his races. A big horse like him with a big stride on him, I can’t see why it wouldn’t be to his advantage more than anything.”
Walsh, who previously worked for Godolphin as an assistant trainer in Dubai, spoke volumes of the world-class breeding and racing operation.
“They’ve been a big influence on my career,” Walsh said. “It’s just a privilege to train for them and an even greater privilege to have a horse of this caliber for them in such a great year. Hopefully, we can keep it going for the next couple of months and make it even better.”
Maxfield will race with blinkers on for the Woodward and will be piloted by regular rider Jose Ortiz from post 2.
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Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle a pair of top contenders in Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector and Don Alberto Stable’s Forza Di Oro.
Art Collector has matched up 103 Beyers in his last 2 starts at 9 furlongs, capturing the Alydar on August 6 at Saratoga and the Charles Town Classic (G2) on August 27. A 7-time winner from 14 starts, Art Collector has banked more than $1.2 million. Art Collector is a 4-year-old son of Bernardini, who sired previous Woodward victors To Honor and Serve (2012) and Alpha (2013).
Art Collector burst onto the scene during his sophomore campaign with victories in the Blue Grass (G2) last July at Keeneland and the Ellis Park Derby a month later for his former trainer Tommy Drury Jr.
Art Collector arrives off a 1/2-mile breeze in 49.49 seconds on September 25 over the Oklahoma training track.
“He looked good and smooth in his last work,” said Mott, who previously won the Woodward with Hall of Famer Cigar (1995-96), To Honor and Serve, and Yoshida (2018). “He’s made no mistakes so far. He looks great and the horse is doing very well. We’re very pleased with him.”
Forza Di Oro, a 4-year-old Speightstown chestnut, sports a ledger of 7-4-1-1 led by a score in the Discovery (G3) in November at the Big A. Last out, Forza Di Oro finished a pacesetting third in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on September 4 at Saratoga.
“It could have been the distance. We were concerned about that going in,” Mott said. “He’s capable of a different running style. We’ll leave that up to the jock.”
Luis Saez returns aboard Art Collector from post 3, while Junior Alvarado will ride Forza Di Oro from post 6.
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A victory from dual Grade 1 winner Code of Honor would give the Farish family their first Woodward win since Mineshaft in 2003. Last out, the 5-year-old homebred son of Noble Mission made his first start off a 7-month layoff a triumphant one in capturing the Phillip H. Iselin (G3) on August 21 at Monmouth Park, garnering a 105 Beyer.
Code of Honor boasts field-best lifetime earnings in excess of $2.8 million through a 17-7-4-2 record, highlighted by 2019 triumphs in the Runhappy Travers (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) during his 3-year-old season.
“He’s training as good as he could – as good as I’ve ever seen him,” McGaughey said. “I think two turns is probably better, but the mile and 1/8 is fine. I think the way he’s training right now, he’s sharp and he’ll be laying in the right spot to wait and make a move.”
Paco Lopez, aboard for his last out Iselin score, will return to the irons from post 5.
St. Elias Stable’s Dr Post will attempt his first Grade 1 victory for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
The son of 2010 Woodward winner Quality Road arrives off a third in the Pacific Classic (G1) on August 21 at Del Mar, where he considerably advanced position in the last two points of call coming from seventh to complete the trifecta. Piloted by Joel Rosario, Dr Post appeared to be losing considerable ground around the far turn.
“In the middle part of the race, he sort of backed up on us and came with a good solid late run,” Pletcher said. “Joel seemed to think that maybe he was struggling with the track a little bit in the middle part of the race for some reason. He seemed to get a hold of it well late in the race, but just put himself in a tough spot with too much to do. It wasn’t a bad race by any means.”
Dr Post displayed a successful seasonal commencement when capturing the Westchester (G3) at Belmont on May 1 before taking the Monmouth Cup (G3) on July 17 2 starts later.
Dr Post will race with blinkers in the Woodward, as he did in his previous 2 starts.
“After the first time, I thought they moved him up quite a bit, but they didn’t seem to have the same effect the second time, or at least the middle part of the race,” Pletcher said. “We’ll leave them on to keep him focused.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., who piloted Dr Post to his first stakes win in the Unbridled last April at Gulfstream Park and a runner-up effort in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last year, will be reunited with the 4-time winner from the inside post.
Completing the field is Knight R.B. Stables’ Mo Gotcha, a 5-time winning 5-year-old son of Uncle Mo. Trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul claimed Mo Gotcha 2 starts back for $40,000 following a victory via disqualification on September 2 at the Spa and arrives off a third-place finish in his stakes debut in the Grand Prix American Jockey Club on September 18.
Returning pilot Jalon Samuel will ride from post 4.
The Woodward is slated as race 10.
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Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle a formidable duo in McKulick and Kinchen in the Miss Grillo, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for juvenile fillies.
Brown, who recently secured his 100th graded stakes win at Belmont Park, is vying for his ninth Miss Grillo score following past success with Maram , Watsdachances , Testa Rossi , Lady Eli , New Money Honey , Significant Form , Newspaperofrecord , and Selflessly .
Klaravich Stables’ McKulick and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Kinchen worked 5 furlongs in company Sunday over the Belmont inner turf in 1:02.09.
“We’re very pleased with her,” Brown said regarding McKulick. “It was a very good work.”
The filly is named for the late Mary McKulick, a longtime office manager and bookkeeper for Brown and the first person the trainer hired when he launched his operation in 2007.
McKulick, by Frankel and out of the Makfi mare Astrelle, graduated on debut in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden on August 8 at Saratoga with Irad Ortiz Jr. up. The victory garnered a field-best 73 Beyer Speed Figure.
Kinchen, by Lope de Vega and out of the Galileo mare Miss Nouriya, rallied to finish second in her August 29 debut at 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga inner turf under Tyler Gaffalione.
Exiting post 3 in her maiden voyage, Kinchen was off slow and took up an inside position. Gaffalione angled the filly three-wide into the stretch run before dropping back inside and then shifted outside again to split rivals inside the final 1/16, missing by three-3/4 of a length to Miss Grillo rival Hail To.
“I felt if she could have got out to the clear, she probably would have won. The break dictated to settle – which most of my horses will do – and she kicked on nicely,” Brown said. “She just found herself with some traffic inside and she probably would have been a little braver if we could have got her clear, but that happens in maiden races. We’ll turn the page and hopefully she gets a better trip in this.”
Kinchen is named in honor of the late Ralph Kinchen, father of America’s Day at the Races analyst Jonathon Kinchen.
Ortiz Jr. will pilot McKulick from the outermost post 6, while Gaffalione has the call aboard Kinchen from post 4.
Woodslane Farm’s Hail To, a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy, lit up the tote board when breaking her maiden at second asking at 20/1 odds for trainer Tom Albertrani. The Kitten’s Joy chestnut, out of the Dynaformer mare Dynaire, settled in fifth position under Ricardo Santana Jr. before rallying six-wide down the lane to best Kinchen.
Hail To has breezed 4 times since her maiden score, including a 1/2-mile work in 50.03 on Big Sandy on Tuesday. Santana Jr. retains the mount from post 3.
Tracy Farmer’s Philly Eagles was a half-length victor in a maiden weight-for-age contest going seven furlongs on June 26 at Doncaster with Alice Haynes as her conditioner.
The daughter of Havana, now in the care of Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, was slated to make her North American debut in the P. G. Johnson on September 2 at Saratoga but scratched when the race came off the turf.
The Irish-bred bay breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.75 on September 19 over the Belmont inner turf in preparation for her belated debut. Dylan Davis has the call from post 5.
Treadway Racing Stable’s multiple stakes placed Sail By graduated in June at first asking in a 6-furlong maiden special weight on the Belmont turf. The Astern bay, bred in Kentucky by Jeff Treadway, followed with a runner-up effort in the five-furlong Colleen on August 1 at Monmouth Park. She enters from a pace-setting third in the P.G. Johnson, contested at seven furlongs on a fast main track.
Junior Alvarado retains the mount from the inside post.
Rounding out the field is Judy Hicks’ homebred Charlee O, a maiden winner at first asking sprinting 6 furlongs over the Belmont turf on July 11. The Tourist bay followed with a sixth in the 5 1/2-furlong Bolton Landing, contested over yielding Saratoga turf on August 18.
Manny Franco has the call from post 2.
The Miss Grillo is slated as race 4.
Oringer, Jack Bick, Al Bianchi Racing, Adam Bayroff, and Mike Maturo’s multiple graded stakes-placed Piedi Bianchi will look to continue her recent good run of grass form when facing males for the first time in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational at 6 furlongs on the inner turf for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.
Trained by Carlos Martin, Piedi Bianchi was named the 2020 Indiana Horse of the Year for a campaign that included a runner-up effort in the Merrillville and a second career score in the Frances Slocum at Indiana Grand. The versatile mare also posted a win in the 6-furlong Correction last March on the Big A main track.
The now 6-year-old Indiana-bred daughter of Overanalyze, who is multiple Grade 1-placed on dirt, has re-focused on turf racing in her current campaign, posting a game second to Change of Control in the 7-furlong Intercontinental (G3) in June at Belmont.
The talented grey, a 4-time winner on the main track, finished second in the off-the-turf Perfect Sting at 1 mile on a sloppy and sealed Belmont main track in July ahead of a 2 1/2-length score over multiple stakes winner Lead Guitar and graded stakes-placed Robin Sparkles last out in the 5 1/2-furlong Smart N Fancy over yielding turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Martin credited Oringer with the change of direction for Piedi Bianchi.
“She’s really stepped up her game and Jay had emphasized to me her numbers on the turf and the way she gets into a race, it seems like she does it so easily,” Martin said. “She’s so tactical. She doesn’t have to be too far away. She breaks out of there and gets a good spot and places herself accordingly. She has a good kick, which you need in these turf sprints. She really finishes off her races.”
Piedi Bianchi was sent to post as the third choice in a compact field of four in the Smart N Fancy, tracking the early speed of Robin Sparkles from second position before taking control inside the eighth-pole en route to a 2 1/4-length score.
“She did it quite convincingly. We had got some rain on the turf course and it seems like she handles any type of turf, so it’s a big advantage to have,” Martin said. “She’s one of those Rodney Dangerfield types. I think she just doesn’t get the respect she’s due. But she showed it on the racetrack and won easy. She beat a nice field of mares and did it on the biggest stage at Saratoga on Alabama Day. I was very proud of her.”
Martin said Piedi Bianchi will be cross-entered in the $150,000 Cardinal, a 1 1/16-mile main track event for Indiana-bred fillies and mares slated for October 6 at Indiana Grand. The connections will examine both options before making a final decision where to run.
“She’s doing great. She’s come out of her last race really well,” Martin said. “Jay has been great helping me manage the filly and she’s ready to go either way.
“She’s really been flourishing on the turf,” Martin added. “I think she deserves a chance to run against the best, so if she stays here I’m fine with that.”
Charles Roberts is named to ride from the inside post.
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Lael Stables’ Arrest Me Red won the 5 1/2-furlong Mahony last out by a neck over firm Saratoga turf while making her debut for trainer Wesley Ward. The 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile bay won the 6-furlong Atlantic Beach in November on the Big A turf for former conditioner Arnaud Delacour.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will pilot Arrest Me Red from post 3.
Christophe Clement saddled the winner of three of the previous five runnings of the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, scoring with Pure Sensation  and Disco Partner [2017-18].
He will be represented Saturday by Oak Bluff Stables’ Therapist, a stakes winner at state-bred and open company, who was scratched out of Friday’s off-the-turf Ashley T. Cole.
The 6-year-old Freud chestnut, bred in the Empire State by Oak Bluff Stable and Clement, will be in search of his first win since the Artie Schiller in November 2020 at Aqueduct. The ultra-consistent gelding, who boasts a record of 26-9-3-6, has won at least one stakes race every year since his 2-year-old season in 2017.
Therapist enters from a game runner-up effort in the restricted West Point, rallying to finish a nose back of stablemate City Man in the 1 1/16-mile turf test on August 27 at Saratoga.
Tyler Gaffalione has the call from post 5.
Gatsas Stables’ Backtohisroots stumbled at the start of last year’s Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, unseating Jose Lezcano. The 5-year-old Mark Valeski gelding returned to action off nearly a one-year layoff last out with a runner-up effort to returning rival Pulsate in the 5 1/2-furlong Lucky Coin on September 3 at the Spa.
Luis Saez retains the mount from post 2.
Rounding out the field are Lucky Coin winner Pulsate [post 7, Manny Franco]; 2019 Awad victor Buy Land and See [post 4, Jose Ortiz]; Guildsman [post 6, Ricardo Santana, Jr.], winner of last year’s Franklin Simpson (G3) at Kentucky Downs; Jaipur (G1) runner-up Chewing Gum [post 9, Eric Cancel], and Belgrano [post 8, Junior Alvarado], last-out winner of the Rainbow Heir at Monmouth.
The Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational is slated as race 9.
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