What a race we enjoyed last week in the Travers. I wrote that I was intrigued by Arrogate, and I would use him heavily in exotics. It was a great move as it turned out, but in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined that he would win by a thousand lengths and set a track record in the process. Setting a track record at the classic distance at a track as historic as Saratoga is nothing to sneeze at. It remains to be seen if the horse can do it again, but we can worry about that later.
Now we have a bigger question to consider - is the best older horse on the East Coast right now as good as he has looked? That horse, of course, is Frosted. After two straight exceptional races he towers over the rest of this decent-but-far-from-exciting field. The Woodward Stakes, run over nine furlongs, is Saturday at Saratoga, and is the 10th race, scheduled for 5:46 p.m. ET. Here's how it breaks down (odds are the track morning line):
Frosted (1/2): This two-race stretch from Frosted couldn't be more impressive. He won the Met Mile in June at Belmont as impressively as a horse can win a race. It was totally dominating. To prove it was no fluke, he came to Saratoga and impressed again in the Whitney. He's deservedly a heavy favorite here, and he's versatile enough to handle this race no matter how it shapes up. The question that always looms, though, is whether he can maintain this pace. Just three races back he was only fifth in the Dubai World Cup, finishing behind new stablemate Mubtaahij, who he faces here, and others. The horse that we have seen in the last two wins easily. The horse we saw before that likely doesn't. I'm optimistic, but the price is very tough to bet. If you like him then singling him on top of the exacta and trifecta is likely the best way to go.
Mubtaahij (5/1): This horse won the UAE Derby last year to make the Kentucky Derby, but he was a non-threatening eighth there, and he was fourth in the Belmont. He headed back to Dubai, and after a layoff he peaked with a second behind California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup. Kiaran McLaughlin, who also trains Frosted, has taken over the conditioning of him. He didn't look great last time out, but he is improving and could be a factor. I think I'll pass on him, though.
Bradester (6/1): This six year old is a late bloomer. He'd had nice wins before, but this three-race winning streak he comes in on is the best of his career, highlighted by a win in the Stephen Foster two back. He's the speed in this race, and he is good enough to be dangerous. I don't trust him to win, but he is certainly a big threat to get a piece and needs to factor into exotic plays in a big way.
Samraat (10/1): I liked this horse heading into the 2014 Derby - not to win but to get a piece - and he was decent in a fifth-place effort. Then he was sixth in the Belmont. He has won some decent races in the two years since - his best being a second in the Suburban last time out - but he hasn't won since March of 2014. That streak isn't ending here - he's just not good enough. I don't see him being a piece of the action, either.
Tale of Verve (30/1): Here's yet another Triple Crown veteran in this field - Tale of Verve was a shocking second in last year's Preakness, and then seventh in the Belmont. After the Belmont he strung together six very lousy races, but he broke the streak here at Saratoga last time out with an upset win in an allowance over heavy favorite My Man Sam, a Derby also-ran this year. It's not enough - I'm not a believer.
Shaman Ghost (12/1) and Breaking Lucky (20/1): These horses are from different stables, but they belong together for this discussion because of what links them. For starters, they are both very well bred - Breaking Lucky is a son of Preakness winner and two year old and three year old champion Lookin at Lucky, and Shaman Ghost is a son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. Of more interest, though, both horses won legs of the Canadian Triple Crown in 2015 - Shaman Ghost won the Queen's Plate, which is the first leg, and Breaking Lucky came back to win the Prince of Wales, the second leg. Shaman Ghost was second in the Prince of Wales and headed to Belmont after a long layoff, winning the Grade 2 Brooklyn in June in his second race back. Breaking Lucky has mostly stayed at home, getting his first win since the Prince of Wales last time out. Both horses have intriguing backgrounds, but it's hard to imagine that either is quite good enough for this spot. Of the two, though, Shaman Ghost feels better, and he could be useful in exotics at this price.
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