Liam’s Map Wins Woodward Stakes In Tour de Force
Liam’s Map Wins Woodward Stakes In Tour de Force: Denied victory in the Grade 1 Whitney earlier in the meet, Liam’s Map didn’t let another Grade 1 win slip away on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. The 4-year-old colt took command of the $600,000 Woodward at the start, dictated a moderate pace, and rolled home in the stretch to complete the 1 1/8 miles in a sparkling 1:47.44.
The win was redemption for Liam’s Map after a heroic effort in the $1.25 million Whitney on August 8 at the Spa. The son of Unbridled’s Song set a wicked pace in the Whitney and opened up by nearly five lengths in the stretch before he was picked off in the waning strides by multiple Grade 1 winner Honor Code. On Saturday, no horse was within 4 ¾ lengths of him at the finish.
“The Whitney was as tough a loss as you’ll experience,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “He ran an unbelievable race that day and everything he indicated to us from that time until today was that he was ready to come back over and put forth another big effort. I’m just happy to see him get that Grade 1 that he deserves so much.”
Breaking from post 2 in the Woodward, Liam’s Map shot to the front under Javier Castellano and waltzed around the first turn, clocking the opening quarter-mile in 23.69 seconds, with the speedy Bay of Plenty stalking the pace in second and the Pletcher-trained Coach Inge in third.
Liam’s Map continued to cruise along down the backstretch, going a half-mile in 47.49 seconds and three-quarters in 1:10.94, and the gray colt promptly shrugged off his two pursuers leaving the far turn. Spurred on by Castellano, Liam’s Map readily extended his advantage down the stretch and went on to a facile victory.
“The opening fractions were very much in his favor, and he has that style where he can get into a cruising speed and just keep carrying it,” said Pletcher. “The thing that he did after he went that 47 and 1 is he came back with another 23 and change to go 1:10 and change and then 1:34 and change. He just gets into that rhythm and he just runs horses off their feet.”
As the 6-5 favorite, Liam’s Map returned $4.40 on a $2 win bet and increased his earnings to $808,940 for Teresa Viola Racing Stables.
Castellano, who rode Honor Code in the Whitney, picked up his fifth Grade 1 victory of the meet. Currently second in the jockey standings, Castellano also scored aboard long-shot Keen Ice in his upset victory over Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $1.6 million Travers.
“I’m very lucky and very fortunate to be in that spot,” said Castellano, the first jockey to win the Whitney, Woodward, Travers and Grade 1 Alabama in the same meet. “I expected to have a great meet, but I think I was in the right place at the right time and everything fell into place. I had a lot of support; from owners and trainers and my agent.”
Making his first start since a courageous effort in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 4 at Belmont Park, Coach Inge stayed on for second and gave Pletcher a 1-2 finish in the race.
“I’ll tell you, Coach Inge ran unbelievable,” said Pletcher, who trains Coach Inge for Repole Stable. “It was a super, super effort. Good enough to win a lot of Woodwards.”
Two horses from the barn of trainer Jimmy Jerkens rounded out the superfecta, with last year’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Wicked Strong finishing third and Effinex a neck behind.
The Pletcher-trained Mylute checked in fifth, followed by Bay of Plenty, Commanding Curve and Pletcher’s fourth runner, Protonico.