Woodward Stakes Promises a Good Horse Race
Woodward Stakes Promises a Good Horse Race: The Woodward Stakes has a deeply rich history. Not only have many Hall of Fame horses won the nine-furlong event, but it also has helped multiple horses to earn year-end Eclipse Awards. The race has been hosted annually at Saratoga Race Course since 1954 and has been run at four different distances since then: one mile, one and one eight miles, one and one quarter miles, and one and one half miles. The speed record for the current one and one eighth mile distance is held by Forego, who completed the nine-furlong event in 1:45.8. In 1990, Dispersal tied Forego’s speed record. Alysheba, the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner, won the event going one and one quarter miles, completing it in a speed record of 1:59.4, which is actually the exact time it took Secretariat to complete the Kentucky Derby trip in 1973. In 1973, when the race was run at one and one half miles, Prove It set a speed record, completing the race in 2:25.8.
The Woodward has come up tough to handicap for anyone who thinks they understand this sport. Not only does trainer Todd Pletcher have half of the field in his barn, there is not a horse in the field that could not pull of the upset. However, one horse looks to return to his winning ways, which he has been keeping consistent in his last three of four starts: Effinex. His last four races, all have been winning efforts, outside of a chaotic Brooklyn Handicap, where he was pulled up. In his last start, the Grade Two Suburban Handicap, Effinex battled Tonalist through the end stages of the race, and was able to hold him off by a head in the ten-furlong event. Since the Suburban, Effinex has been working consistently over the Saratoga main track to keep in racing shape, which seems to be what the Jerkens trainee needs, rather than major work to prepare.
Effinex is a four-year-old son of Mineshaft, Champion Older Male and Horse of the Year in 2003. Mineshaft is a son of A.P. Indy, a sire of sires. Effinex has certainly been able to continue the winning ways of this successful bloodline. The colt is out of the E Dubai mare, What a Pear. The mare was a two-time stakes winner in her early career, but was unable to replicate those wins later down the road. She did not finish the 2010 Indistinctly Stakes and was retired. Her sire, however, was a multiple graded stakes winner. E Dubai was a winner of the Grade Two Dwyer Stakes in 2002 and the Grade Two Suburban Handicap in 2003. E Dubai, by Mr. Prospector, was competitive at the Classic distance of one and one quarter miles, but was never able to obtain a Grade One win at the distance. He did finish second in the 2002 Travers Stakes but faltered badly in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was retired to stud shortly after. He currently stands stud in Louisiana at Elite Thoroughbreds. He is the sire of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Fort Larned.
Other horses in the field may look more appealing that Effinex, such as Liam’s Map, the morning line favorite and likely post time favorite. However, there is a deadly amount of speed in the race, if everyone runs their race. Liam’s Map, last out, was narrowly defeated in the Grade One Whitney by Honor Code, the only horse to make up any ground that day. This time, Liam’s Map is without a stone-cold closer like Honor Code, and likely has the ability to hold some of the other closing horses, such as Commanding Curve, second in the 2014 Kentucky Derby at odds of 38-1. Others looks to use more tactical speed such as Wicked Strong, who hopes to get back to his winning ways with a win here.
Protonico, a Pletcher trainee, looks to carry his win streak into, and out of this race. He is a very fast horse who can carry his speed. His last race was the Grade Two Alysheba at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. He has been working very well at Saratoga and will try to grab another Graded stakes victory.
The Woodward is not a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In,” but could serve as a prep for the race, as horses earn points by competing in, and winning, Graded stakes events, similar to the Kentucky Derby points system. While any horse is capable of winning the one and one eight mile event, Liam’s Map is looking like the one to beat here. Can he come back and win a Graded Stakes at Saratoga? It all may depend on not only the other horses and how they use their speed, but also the Saratoga track, which can be very tricky to read and handicap. The 2015 edition of the Woodward Stakes promises to be a good horse race, no matter the outcome.
Final Stretch Festival & Woodward Stakes at Saratoga
Woodward Stakes 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race 10 5:47 PM ET
1 Wicked Strong 5-1 Saez/Jerkens
2 Liam’s Map 6-5 Castellano/Pletcher
3 Commanding Curve 30-1 Bridgmohan/Stewart
4 Bay of Plenty 10-1 Rosario/McLaughlin
5 Mylute 15-1 Ortiz, Jr./Pletcher
6 Coach Inge 6-1 Velazquez/Pletcher
7 Effinex 4-1 Alvarado/Jerkens
8 Protonico 12-1 Ortiz/Pletcher