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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Cross Traffic skips deep Woodward, will run in Jockey Club Gold Cup

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The news that Cross Traffic did not enter Saturday’s $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga was met with mixed emotions from several of the trainers who did enter their horses in the Grade 1 race.

While the talented Cross Traffic would more than likely have been the favorite coming out of his victory in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational four weeks ago, his presence in the Woodward would have assured an honest pace. Trainer Todd Pletcher decided Wednesday morning to bypass the Woodward and point to the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park because he felt it was a better way to get the horse to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

“Getting a race at a mile and a quarter five weeks out puts us in a better position for the Classic than a mile-and-an-eighth race nine weeks out,” Pletcher said.

“I wish he was there, only because of the speed; the more speed, the better,” said Charles LoPresti, the trainer of Successful Dan, the runner-up to Cross Traffic in the Whitney and the possible Woodward favorite. “It’s not that I think I can beat him; I just wish he was there.”

Successful Dan drew post 2 under Julien Leparoux and was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Woodward, run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track. The Woodward will share top billing along with the Grade 1 Forego and the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch on a 12-race card.

Fort Larned, the front-running winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and the fifth-place finisher in the Whitney, figured to benefit from the absence of the speedy Cross Traffic in the Woodward. Still, trainer Ian Wilkes was looking forward to the rematch.

“Once you get beat by him, you’d like to have a second chance to beat him,” Wilkes said.

Fort Larned will break from post 3 under Brian Hernandez Jr.

Bill Mott, the trainer of closers Ron the Greek and Flat Out, also lamented the loss of Cross Traffic from a pace perspective.

“It’s a balancing act,” Mott said. “You’re losing the favorite, but you’re also losing some early speed. Hopefully, Mucho Macho Man and Fort Larned will take up that role.”

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Paynter, said he wasn’t surprised that Cross Traffic didn’t enter.

“In the back of my mind, I had a feeling he wasn’t going to run,” Baffert said. “It was coming up so tough.”

Paynter, who has battled back from life-threatening illnesses to run two solid races this year, will break from post 5 under Rafael Bejarano. He was scheduled to arrive at Saratoga early Wednesday evening after being flown Federal Express from Southern California to Newark, N.J., then vanning to Saratoga.

Mucho Macho Man was beaten a neck by the Mott-trained To Honor and Serve in last year’s Woodward. He is making his second start at this meet, having run third in the Whitney. He will break from post 6 under Edgar Prado.

John Velazquez, who was scheduled to ride Cross Traffic in the Woodward, picked up the mount on Alpha, who is seeking his first win since last year’s Travers. He finished sixth in the Whitney.

On Wednesday, Successful Dan blew out three furlongs in 37.15 seconds, though clocking was extremely difficult owing to heavy fog. Exercise rider Damien Rock had a ton of horse galloping down the backside, and he got his last furlong in 11.80.

“I told him, ‘Try not to get a roll to the pole,’ because he’ll go 35 if he had a roll to the pole,” LoPresti said. “I know going to that pole, he had a handful of horse.”

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