A major race during the Saratoga meeting takes center stage on Saturday afternoon. The $600,000 million Grade 1 Woodward Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward drew nine horses, including Whitney winner Frosted.
The horse to beat, Frosted, is coming off that win in the Whitney earlier in the meet when he drew off against five other rivals. The 4-year-old son of Tapit was established as the clear 1-2 favorite by morning line oddsmaker Travis Stone.
The final Saturday card of the meet will also host the Grade 3 Saranac and the Grade 2 Spinaway. Fox Sports 2 (Time Warner, channel 402) and MSG+ (DirecTV, channel 635) will carry the races live starting at 4 p.m.
Trainer, jockey and owner categories will be decided this weekend for the Saratoga meet. After Thursday’s races, Jose Ortiz (54) holds a six race advantage over brother Irad in the jockey standings. Chad Brown (36) looks like he will unseat Todd Pletcher (27) in the training category. Michael Dubb (11) holds a one race lead over Klaravich/Lawrence (10) in owner wins.
Here’s a look at the entries for the mile-and-an-eighth G1 Woodward (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Shaman Ghost (Jerkens, Castellano 12-1). The Ghostzapper colt won last year’s Queen’s Plate and captured the Grade 2 Brooklyn as a 4-year-old after joining the Jimmy Jerkens barn. You can throw out his last effort in the Brooklyn, a paceless race where it just didn’t set up well for him. With a little more pace in the Woodward he could be dangerous in the stretch. Completes the exacta.
2 – Breaking Lucky (Baker, Contreras, 20-1). Woodbine shipper that won last year’s Prince of Wales stakes at Fort Erie for trainer Reade Baker. Come off a win in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup on the Tapeta in Toronto in early August and is stepping up to face Grade 1 company for the first time. Jockey Luis Contreras will look to make his mark in his first ride of the year at Saratoga. He currently sits in second on the Woodbine jockey standings by Eurico Rosa da Silva. In deep waters.
3 – Frosted (McLaughlin, Rosario, 1-2). After two straight spectacular performances is he due for a clunker? The McLaughlin barn has been firing the whole meet (26 percent) and the 4-year-old gray son of Tapit is clearly pointing at a date with California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He should maintain the momentum on Saturday.
4 – Bradester (Kenneally, Bravo, 6-1). Son of Lion Heart should not be quickly dismissed. Returns to Saratoga after a solid win on Haskell Day in the slop in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup. He has a stellar record in graded stakes and could put Frosted to a test with his early speed. He’s likely to be out on the lead and trying to steal it if pace is lacking. Will be using underneath, but still have to respect.
5 – Catholic Cowboy (Zito, Saez, 20-1). Zito is 1-for-33 in the meet and is a barn that is clearly struggling and overmatched in here. Received some class relief after the Grade 2 Brooklyn on Belmont day, but could only muster a fourth-place finish in an $80K optional claimer, beaten 16 lengths. Pass.
6 – Samraat (Violette, J. Ortiz, 10-1). This horse can sneak up on you, but hasn’t won since he won the Gotham in his 3-year-old season two years ago. The son of Noble Causeway lost the Suburban at the wire to Effinex after setting a slow pace. The longer distances seem to be more of his forte.
7 – Tale of Verve (Steward, Velazquez, 30-1). Dallas Stewart obtains the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez for the first time. Steps back into graded company for the first time in almost a year after winning one of his last three allowance races. He looks to be on the improve, but not sure he’s talented enough to win.
8 - Tapin Mojo (Chatterpaul, Franco, 50-1). Longest shot on the board didn’t fire in the Suburban against similar and is making a huge class jump for trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul. He comes in third off the layoff, but is clearly overmatched in here.
9 – Mubtaahij (McLaughlin, I. Ortiz, 5-1). Rested stable mate of Frosted comes off a third-place finish in the Suburban behind Effinex and Samraat in his first race since shipping back from Dubai. Seems to relish longer distances than 9 panels, but he should be around to hit the board at the wire.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Frosted; 2 – Shaman Ghost; 3 – Mubtaahij; 4 – Bradester
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.