2014 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Picks, Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 8/29/2014
Saratoga, the greatest race meet of the year, comes to an end this weekend, and to see it out the Saturday card features the prestigious Woodward Stakes and several other events. The Woodward hasn't traditionally been a big event of the final weekend of Saratoga - it only moved here in 2006 after previously being run at Belmont and Aqueduct. In the short time, though, it has established an impressive history - Curlin, Rachel Alexandra and Havre de Grace all won the race en route to their Horse of the Year wins.
We almost certainly won't see a Horse of the Year on Saturday - at least not in this race - but it's still both a solid race and a fun one to bet on. Here's how it breaks down:
Woodward Stakes, Race 11, Saratoga Race Course, Saturday Aug. 30
The storyline here is what it was supposed to be - the top two finishers in the Whitney, the top race for older horses at the beginning of the meet, back to settle the score and determine who is the unquestioned king of the category on the East Coast as summer turns to fall. The only problem is that everyone expected and hoped that it would be Palace Malice and Will Take Charge here fighting to the death, and instead both of them are licking their wounds and waiting for the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the end of September. Instead it is surprising winner Moreno and runner-up Itsmyluckyday who will be vying for supremacy. It's not a marquee matchup particularly, but it has the makings of a good race.
The biggest question in this race is the pace. Moreno (2/1) appears to be the lone speed - at least in terms of preferred style. In the Whitney he was allowed to run loose on the lead early on at very reasonable fractions, so when it came time for him to really push it down the stretch he had plenty left and wired the field. He shouldn't be allowed to do that again, but I don't know who will test him. Itsmyluckyday (5/2) really can't afford to run up front because he has faded in the past when he has done so. He, along with Norumbega (10/1) and Long River (8/1), are wearing blinkers with the first time, though, and that could be an indication that they are looking to get more aggressive early on.
I like Moreno, but I don't like his price. I'll bet him because he has the best chance to win, but I'll be looking for a longer shot to complement the bet. For that I will look at Last Gunfighter (15/1). He has not looked good this year, but Joe Bravo, who rode him to some nice wins last year, is finally back on board, and that should make an improvement. He can sit off the pace set by Moreno and has more than enough talent to warrant his price.
Recommended bets: Win bets on Moreno and Last Gunfighter
Bonus race: Bernard Baruch Handicap, Race 5
There is only one storyline in this one - the return from illness of two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan (3/5). He won his first two starts this year but was then sidelined on May 16 after a bout of colic. That's when a horse's intestine gets twisted, and it can often be fatal. Things went well, though, and his recovery from surgery has been remarkable.
He is far and away the best horse in this field - he's the best horse on the continent, in fact. The only question, then, is whether he can be ready for this challenge after all he has gone through. He also has to carry at least eight pounds more than every other horse in the field - a not insignificant burden. He has trained well since returning to action and is dramatically better than everyone else here, so I can't look past him. The price is predictably lousy, though, so the only real option is to look for a horse to pair in an exacta with Wise Dan. I'm going to take a shot with Paris Vegas (12/1). There is a lot of early speed in this race, and while that suits Wise Dan perfectly, it also works well for this horse. He has been at his best while chasing strong early fractions, and he had a strong outing in this same race last year.
Recommended bet: Exacta with Wise Dan over Paris Vegas.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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