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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 31, 2018 at 4:56 PM


Jim Hurley,
Friday, September 1

What a way to usher in the 3 Day Holiday Weekend and close out the 2018 Saratoga Meet.

Last year in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes, the invincible Gun Runner chased all but 4 opponents away from the entry box and ran off to a 10 ½ length win at $2.70.

Oh what a difference a year makes. With arguably the two best older division horses sitting this one out (Diversify is training forward after winning the Whitney at Saratoga on August 4 and Accelerate just eclipsed the seminal Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar two Saturday’s ago) this year’s edition of the Woodward has become an absolute “player’s dream open house” with 14 runners signed on and the morning line favorite, Gunnevera, listed at 4-1.

If that weren’t enough, the Grade 1 Woodward, run as Race 11 is the third in sequence of 4 straight Graded Stakes Races which comprise the final All-Stakes Pick 4 of the Meet (Races 9-12.)

The complete lineup is…

Race 9 – Grade 3 Saranac Stakes – 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) – 3 Year Olds (9 Entrants)
Race 10 – Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes – 7 Furlongs – Juvenile Fillies (12 Entrants)
Race 11 – Grade 1 Woodward Stakes – 1 1/8 Miles – 3 Year Olds & Up (14 Entrants)
Race 12 – Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes – 1 2/8 Miles (Turf) – 3 Year Old & Up Fillies & Mares (9 Entrants)


There isn’t a red-blooded horse player alive who doesn’t kneel before the altar of the racing gods and pray for the kind of field that will knock heads in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward Stakes.

Obviously any race is the same as the last or next for a handicapper. There are certain signs one looks for in the past performances. Signs that begin to create a short list. One of those very basic methods is to check out the last race prior to this.

What do we see when we do this? We see 14 horses racing their last race at 6 different race tracks over 8 different surfaces (grass, fast main track sloppy main track.)

Have any of these horses faced each other recently? In the case of the Woodward field the answer is yes. Discreet Lover and Tapwrit, who were third and fourth respectively behind Diversify in the Grade 1 Whitney will give it a go.

Discreet Lover is owned and trained by low percentage conditioner Uriah St. Lewis. The 5 year old son of Repent has raced an amazing 42 times already and earned just short of $1 Million. He has ducked none of the best. While not on the tips of tongues of many race fans he has a fourth and a pair of thirds in a pair of Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 in his last three tries.

Tapwrit was a bit of a disappointment in the Whitney, finishing 4th, beaten 10 lengths but trainer Todd Pletcher has not given up on the hope that he will find the form that saw him win last year’s Belmont Stakes.

A trio of runners exit the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer Park 4 Saturday’s ago.

Winner Leofric went wire-to-wire as the even money favorite, Term Of Art was a neck back in second and old-timer and once Grade 1 winner Imperative checked in 4th as his new connections look for one last glory run. All three are listed at between 20-1 and 30-1 on the morning line.

Other contenders who had a prep over the Saratoga dirt during this meet are Kurilov, Patch, and Rally Cry.

Kurilov and Patch finished a length apart, second and third respectively in the ungraded Alydar Stakes (at the 9 furlong Woodward distance) on August 5. The former was switched to dirt by the meet’s runaway wins leader Chad Brown (just tied the meet record of 40 wins in race 7 on Friday so should not only reset that record but shatter it) after 4 straight tries on grass and pressed the pace throughout before taking a lead at the furlong marker and getting caught late.

Patch, one of the three Pletcher entries was 6 wide in the lane and closed well in the pace-less Alydar.

Another of the Pletcher runners is Rally Cry, who was outrun in a very fast pace in a 7 furlong allowance/optional claimer, which was his first start since October. Mike Smith takes the mount on a runner that is much better suited at 9 furlongs.

Morning line favorite Gunnevera ships north from Gulfstream Park as trainer Antonio Sano attempts the same maneuver he used to get a strong second in last year’s Travers Stakes. Prior to the Mid-Summer Derby last year Sano ran and won with Gunnevera in the mile and a sixteenth 100K Stakes 4 weeks earlier. This year, Sano ran and won with his charge in an allowance/optional 65K claimer 4 weeks ago…also at a mile and a sixteenth and the colt won that prep in an even faster time than last year’s effort. If nothing else the runner is in hand.

Another who adds depth despite his 10-1 morning line designation is Seeking The Soul. The Dallas Stewart trainee was last seen finishing second in a 100K Stakes at Indiana Grand. He was beaten a head but it was his first test since late January at Gulfstream. The 5-year old Perfect Soul horse won 3 times and checked in third 3 times in his final 6 races of 2017 including a win in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs so is definitely a threat on his best.

Perhaps the most interesting runner in the race is Yoshida. The Bill Mott trained Japanese bred son of Heart City will make his first start on dirt after opening his career with 10 straight turf tries. The 4 year old colt was an off the pace winner in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs but since shipped to England for the Queen Anne’s Stake and was last seen in the Grade 1 Fourstardave here three weeks ago and checked in 5th in each. He has shown ability but this is a gamble.

Completing the field are Hence, a last out winner of a 200K Stakes at Albuquerque Downs, the Graded Stakes placed Sunny Ridge, who comes off a short break after winning the one turn State Dinner overnight at Belmont in early July and Zanotti, who looks for his first win in his seventh start of 2018 but did check in second in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup on July 29.

This is a race that promises boxcar type payoffs regardless of configuration and I can’t wait. I have a longshot in mind that will ring the register and make certain for that boxcar exotic.

Get All My Selections For The ALL-STAKES LATE PICK 4
Including Win Bets, Exotics, Three Daily Doubles & Two Pick 3’s
ONLY $19…(Click Here For Details)


It has been many years since the two-year old filly division has seen as much depth as we have in 2018.

This is clearly reflected by the competitive accomplished field of a dozen promising youngsters that will look to take another step forward in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at 7 furlongs in Race 10.

Favoritism will likely settle on one of two fillies.  Chasing Yesterday, a Bob Baffert trained, Mike Smith ridden daughter of Tapit who ran to her 3-10 debut favoritism by eclipsing her MSW field at Del Mar 5 weeks ago or Catherinethegreat, the local Grade 3 Schuylerville winner here on opening day of the meet.

While their past performance lines look as though these two speedy fillies could be any kind it should never be forgotten that these lightly raced youngsters develop seemingly overnight in these races and this field has plenty who have shown signs.

The two fillies to the inside, Cassie’s Dream, a last out maiden claiming winner in her debut and Baby Nina, whose speed figures at Thistledown seem a bit soft might be outclassed but that cannot be said of next in line Virginia Eloise, a Curlin filly who closed well to get the place for Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano in the 6 1/2 furlong Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes here 3 weekends ago.

Outside of Catherinthegreat is another Todd Pletcher trainee. Nonna Madeline, a Candy Ride filly who was second in the Schuylerville on opening day.

Next to enter the gates will be Sippican Harbor who has already been a mile and a sixteenth on the turf in her debut and then ran off the track with a 17 length win in her second start, a MSW win at today’s 7 furlong distance.

Chasing Yesterday is next in line and outside of her is a third from the Pletcher barn, Guacamole, a Flat Out filly who was third with a 4 wide run in the Grade 2 Adirondack.

In gate 9 is longshot Bella Ciao who ships in from Gulfstream Park after breaking her maiden in her last. She is well bred as a daughter of Flatter but her speed numbers need to improve considerably

A pair of very live fillies leave from post 10 and post 11. In gate 10 is Reflect, a Trappe Shot filly who was dominant in her debut in winning a MSW at Santa Anita but was checked out of the Debutante Stakes at Del Mar and has every credential to rebound. Next to her is Restless Rider, a Distorted Humor filly who won her debut in hand and then ran away from her rivals in the 100K Debutante Stakes at Churchill in her last.  

Filling out the deep field is Love My Honey who won her debut here vs MSW rivals despite hitting the gate at the start and then coming in at the sixteenth pool. Another well-bred miss, she is a daughter of speed producing sire, Pimlico Stakes winner, Shackleford.

These two Grade 1 races stand alone as great betting races, but combined with their bookends, the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes (Race 9) and the Grade 3 Glens Falls Stakes (Race 12) this final Saturday of the Meet allows us Long Win Payoffs, Exotics, a trio of Daily Doubles, a pair of Pick 3’s and the Late All-Stakes Pick 4.

Why not join me as I’ll have this ALL-STAKES PICK 4 AVAILABLE early Saturday Morning.












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