With less than two months to go before the Breeders’ Cup, the graded stakes action takes more importance than ever, and Saturday’s Grade 1 $600,000 Woodward and $350,000 Spinaway should both produce contenders for the year-end championship event.
The Woodward drew a field of eight, four of which will be saddled by trainer Todd Pletcher, who is looking for his 12th training title at Saratoga. Through Thursday, he was trailing Chad Brown by one winner.
The best of the quartet is Liam’s Map, who is the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt was beaten just a neck in the Whitney (G1), run down in the final jumps by Honor Code. Javier Castellano gets the call and will carry 118 pounds.
Pletcher’s other three runners are Mylute (15-1), who was second in the Alydar in his last start, Suburban Handicap (G2) third place finisher Coach Inge (6-1) and Alysheba (G2) winner Protonico.
The Woodward and Spinaway will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network, the one-hour telecast getting underway at 5:00 ET.
The Spinaway is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Rachel Valentina, who broke her maiden impressively in her debut for Pletcher is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
The filly is by Bernardini out of the 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who beat the boys six years ago winning the Woodward. She also beat the boys in the Preakness (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) that year.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 10 The Woodward G1 (Post time 5:47 ET)
8 Protonico 12-1
2 Liam’s Map 6-5
7 Effinex 4-1
6 Coach Inge 6-1
Analysis: Protonico is one of four in here sent out by the Todd Pletcher barn and will be the biggest price among them. The colt is coming back off a four-month break but has run well fresh in the past. He rebounded after getting eased in the Donn Handicap (G1) by winning the Ben Ali (G3) off a two-month break earning a career top speed fig. Then he was a game winner of the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs with three of the foes he beat coming back to win next out including Honor Code, who won the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney (G1) in his next two starts.
The colt has won six of his 11 career starts and has earned triple digit Beyers in four of his last five starts. Johnny V. is off to ride Coach Inge and we get stuck with Jose Ortiz, but the 12-1 morning line looks fair enough.
Liam’s Map is also sent out by Pletcher and is going to be a short price here. The colt headed for home with a clear lead in the Whitney only to get run down the in final jump by Honor Code. The racing strip was not kind to speed that day, with outside stalkers and closers winning most of the race on the card.
The loss snapped a four race winning streak that including earning a 112 Beyer winning the ungraded Harlan’s Holiday.
Effinex bounced back from getting eased in the Brooklyn (G2) by matching his career top speed fig wining the Suburban Handicap (G2) last out at Belmont Park a head over Tonalist. Good to see the barn stick with Junior Alvarado who took over from Arroyo who has been really frigid at this meet, currently 1 for 78. He is reunited with Johnny V who was aboard for the Brooklyn win two back.
WIN: #8 to win at 8-1 or better.
EX: 2,8 / 2,6,7,8
TRI: 2,8 / 2,6,7,8 / 1,2,6,7,8