SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – After watching Catholic Boy successfully transition from turf to the Saratoga dirt last week, trainer Bill Mott’s Yoshida decided it was his turn to successfully switch surfaces on Saturday when he ran off to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Breaking well along the rail under Joel Rosario in his dirt debut, Yoshida sat well off the early pace while Leofric and Rally Cry dueled up front through opening splits of :24.00, :47.69, and 1:11.56. Gradually tipping out at the top of and through the far turn, Yoshida found himself an astounding nine-wide at the top of the stretch but still full of run. Rallying strongly with every step, Yoshida collared the front-running pair in the final furlong before drawing off convincingly to win the 1 1/8-mile main track event by 2 lengths in a final time of 1:48.94.
“He went very nice,” said Rosario, who won his third straight graded stakes after piloting Raging Bull in the Grade 3 Saranac and Sippican Harbor in the Grade 1 Spinaway. “I was just a passenger. He was taking very nice to the dirt, and he liked it early on. Turning for home, he was there for me, and he kept going. Like I said, I was just a passenger. All my thanks to Bill Mott, I’m glad I won the race for him and that he gave me the opportunity. This is a nice horse.”
Running a similar style as the winner, the 7/2 favorite Gunnevera had to run 10-wide at one point but didn’t have quite enough to catch the winner, instead settling for a close second by a nose over Leofric, whose top-three finish was his ninth straight. Rally Cry took fourth over the Calumet Farm-owned pair of Patch and Term of Art, while Hence necked out seventh over Tapwrit. Completing the order of finish came Sunny Ridge, Zanotti, Kurilov, Discreet Lover, Seeking the Soul, and Imperative.
Following the race, trainer Antonio Sano lodged an objection, stating that Yoshida had bumped his horse, Gunnevera, off course during the stretch run, but the stewards dismissed it.
“My horse ran good but, if you look, in the last turn, that horse bumped us and pushed us wide – 10 wide – and it was just impossible to win (from there),” Sano said. “It was a good race, but that (made the difference).”
Yoshida’s win was his second in a Grade 1 event and improved his overall record to 11-5-3-0 for owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners. The Japanese-bred 4-year-old son of Heart’s Cry took home $400,000 for the score, which pushed him into millionaire status with $1,289,770 in earnings.
“The horse had worked well on the dirt,” said Mott, who won the Woodward for the fourth time and first since 2012. “As I said before, he’s got a lot of pedigree for the dirt. This was a pretty impressive run, actually. I don’t think you ever really know how they’ll run on a surface until you try them. (Winstar’s) Elliot Walden has been wanting to try it for a long time. We talked about it and Yoshida has been running so well on the turf and he’s a Grade 1 winner on the turf, so you can’t say we made a mistake by not running him on the dirt. We were going to do it. (It) was just a matter of at the opportune time, and right now, there was no turf race that we had in mind in the next 30 days, so we thought, ‘Let’s do it.'”
Yoshida returned $14.40 to win, $6.90 to place, and $6.30 to show. Gunnevera brought back $5.10 to place and $4.10 to show, while Leofric paid $10.80 to show.