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The last Saturday of the historic Saratoga meet is sadly upon us. For eight weeks, the horse racing world had set its sights on the action in upstate New York, but all good things must come to an end. One of the track’s last premier races of the season, the $750,000 Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), is set to go this Saturday. A field of nine quality older horses will aim for the gate.
Leading the way is last year’s winner, Yoshida, who seems to do his best running at Saratoga. After last year’s win, he hit the board just once in his next four starts, and that one on-the-board finish came at Saratoga last time out in the Whitney Stakes (G1), where he finished second. Joel Rosario will have the mount once again when the horse breaks from post 7.
Two others also exiting the Whitney and running here are the third- and fourth-place finishers Vino Rosso and Preservationist. Both have major stakes wins on their resumes this season: Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) and Preservationist in the Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park. Preservationist will likely be one of the pace-setters, while Vino Rosso will close ground from the back of the pack.
The most intriguing entry could be Mongolian Groom, who ships to New York after running third in the Pacific Classic (G1) just two weeks ago. This was not the original plan, but trainer Enebish Ganbat believes that the horse came out of the Pacific Classic in tremendous shape. Luis Saez will have the mount from post 4.
The full field from the rail out: Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Mongolian Groom, Preservationist, Forewarned, Yoshida, Wooderson, and Tom’s d’Etat.
#3 Vino Rosso – This seems like his race to lose in several ways, and his price might be decent enough to bet to win. Two races back, he beat a decent field in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita before finishing third in the Whitney last time out. That did not setting up well from a pace standpoint, so he ended up losing much of a chance to win. He must turn the tables on Yoshida, but it seems like he is set up for an improved effort off of his Whitney performance and can win this one on his way to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
(Update 8/31: Per DRF’s David Grening, Vino Rosso to scratch from Woodward, point to Jockey Club Gold Cup)
#8 Wooderson – Two straight victories to start his 2019 campaign earned him a shot in the Suburban two starts back. That race didn’t go well, but he did bounce back to run second last time out in the Alydar Stakes over this track. He has a lot of talent, which makes him playable, especially since he always seems to go off at a big price. He could be ready for a big-time performance.
#7 Yoshida – The defending champion is back where he seems to run best on the dirt. After winning this race last year, he has failed to win since, but last time out, he was second in the Whitney over this track. That was easily the best of his season, which bodes well for his chances in this spot. There is no doubt that this horse is the class of the field.
#9 Tom’s d’Etat – This is up-and-comer won the Alydar over this race track, defeating Wooderson by over a length. He has also hit the board in big races like the Stephen Foster Handicap (G2) and the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. It seems like he is on the cusp of breaking through with a big victory, and this is the type of race where he can do it in a Grade 1, as this field is not the strongest ever.
#5 Preservationist – After an upset win in the Suburban two races back at Belmont Park, he had some steam going into the Whitney last time out. He set the pace, but turning for home, he came up empty. His fourth-place effort was a bit disappointing, considering his recent progression. An easier field could help, but hitting the board might be his ceiling.
#1 Mr. Buff – This potential upsetter’s his recent form is very strong, with two dominant victories in a row, including the Evan Shipman Stakes over this track last time out. This New York-bred must pass the class test against open company, but his numbers do match up competitively with this field. It will just be a matter of if he can repeat it against top-level competition.
#4 Mongolian Groom – If you subscribe to the theory that the Pacific Classic was a weak race, then it is hard to like Mongolian Groom in this spot. It’s also hard to imagine that he is ready to run a big race off of just two weeks’ rest while also shipping all the way to New York from the west coast. He’s an intriguing runner but has a lot working against him.
#2 Bal Harbour – He has failed to win a race this season, which you notice as you start analyzing his past performances. His races have been consistent, hitting the board in three of four starts, but the jump up in class will be a major challenge for a horse that has run in lower graded races all season long.
#6 Forewarned – Last time out, he tried graded stakes company for the first time, finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Whitney. This is an easier spot for him, which could lead to an improved performance, but three of the horses who finished ahead of him are back here, making this a challenge.
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