Foes Meet Again in Woodward

By Antonio Tristino, @AndoTrist21

Compared to last year’s Woodward Handicap, this year's purse has dropped $150,000 and the field size has doubled from five to 10 horses. If the weather report holds true, we will have a fast track for this year’s edition of Woodward, unlike the sealed sloppy track we had last year. Chad Brown enters Zivo and Last Gunfighter while Godolphin Stables has a coupled entry in Long River and Romansh. From the Whitney field, Itsmyluckyday, Last Gunfighter, Romansh, Prayer for Relief, and Whitney Winner Moreno all come back to face each other again. From the Suburban Handicap (Grade 2), Moreno, Romansh, Norumbega, Micromanage, Last Gunfighter, Prayer for Relief and Winner Zivo meet again.

Last year’s time in the 1 1/8 mile race was 1:47.37. The track record is 1:46.64, set by Lawyer Ron in 2007.

(Post Position: 1)
2- Itsmyluckyday (5/2)
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Trainer: Edward Plesa, Jr.

In my opinion, Itsmyluckyday ran a strange race since he did not battle or take the lead from Moreno in the Whitney (Grade 1), but he did earn his career best Beyer of 107 with his 2nd place finish. Edward Plesa, Jr. puts the blinkers on for the first time for his 19th start and his try at redemption over Moreno. Plesa, Jr. does have a 17% win rate out of 22 starts where he puts blinkers on for the 1st time and 17% out of 23 starts where he has blinkers on. Paco Lopez comes back to ride him for the 5th time in a row. After the Whitney, he has worked twice over at Monmouth Park at 4 furlongs in :48 breezing and :49.4 breezing. These 2 works after a 2nd place finish shows that he has not lost any of his momentum since his comeback at Gulfstream Park. Lopez has a 15% win rate and 38% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Lopez has a 22% win rate and 56% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 18 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Plesa, Jr. has only Itsmyluckyday as his 1 start with his 1 second place finish in the Whitney. Plesa, Jr. has a 40% win rate and 60% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 5 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Lopez and Plesa, Jr. have a 27% win rate out of 146 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 25% win rate out of 485 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Use him under, blinkers might help but he does not like to win at this distance (2-2nd place finishes in 2 tries).

(Post Postion: 2)
1- Long River (8/1)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Long River gets the blinkers for the first time since his disappointing and flat 5th place finish in the Monmouth Park Cup (Grade 2). Irad Ortiz, Jr. has been his regular rider and has ridden him in every start expect his last start in the Monmouth Park Cup where Rosie Napravnik was aboard. Kiaran McLaughlin has a 17% win rate in 18 starts with 1st time blinkers and 21% win rate in his 19 starts with blinkers on. Since the Monmouth Park Cup, Long River has worked 3 times at Saratoga. On 8/11 over 4 furlongs in :50 breezing, 8/17 over 5 furlongs in 1:01.4 breezing, and 8/24 over 5 furlongs in :59.4 breezing. The increase from 5 furlong works shows me that he has been cranked up to win his first start at Saratoga. In his last 3 starts away from the New York Racing Association (NYRA) tracks have been disappointing, but he finished 2nd by a neck behind his other Godolphin Racing owned horse, Romansh, at the 1 & 1/8th miles distance at Aqueduct on 3/22 in the Excelsior Stakes (Grade 3). With his regular rider back on, return to NYRA, and getting blinkers for the first time, I do not see a reason why he cannot improve in his 14th lifetime start. Ortiz, Jr. has a 21% win rate and 51% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Ortiz, Jr. has a 23% win rate and 44% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 43 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. McLaughlin has a 22% win rate and 52% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. McLaughlin has a 16% win rate and 32% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 19 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Ortiz, Jr. and McLaughlin have a 26% win rate out of 43 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 27% win rate out of 151 starts overall this year (2013-2014). I do not like the downward trend in form since his career best Beyer, but I have to use him under since he forms a 2 for 1 special with entries.

(Post Postion: 3)
3- Micromanage (8/1)
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Micromanage comes off of a win in the Birdstone stakes at Saratoga over 1 & 3/4th miles distance. Rajiv Maragh gets on for the 4th time for his 19th start. Todd Pletcher has been running Micromanage in races over 1 & 1/8th miles since the Skip Away (Grade 3) win at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher has put 2 workouts in over the Saratoga dirt course at 4 furlongs in:48.4 and :49.2 breezing. In the Birdstone, he broke out of the 5 post position and laid 2nd until the 1 & 1/2 miles where he took the lead and drew off to win by 8.5 lengths. That impressive win might have taken something out of since his pattern has been to win or come a close 2nd then a bad race then another win. With a negative pattern supposed to happen in this race, we will see how this Pletcher trainee fairs. Maragh has a 15% win rate and 45% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Maragh has a 22% win rate and 48% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 27 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Pletcher has a 21% win rate and 53% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Pletcher has a 20% win rate and 45% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 116 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Maragh and Pletcher have not won a race in their 2 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 16% win rate out of 44 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Castellano jumps off to ride a horse for the first time, which will be enough for me to jump off of him for the win. Use him underneath though.

(Post Postion: 4)
4- Moreno (2/1)
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Trainer: Eric Guillot

The Whitney (Grade 1) winner comes back after getting his lifetime best Beyer of 109. Junior Alvarado gets back on for the 3rd time in a row and hopes to make this back-to-back Graded Stakes wins for this Eric Guillot trainee. Moreno took the lead in the Whitney and never looked back with his diminishing margin win by 1.25 lengths. Since the Whitney, he has worked once over the Saratoga dirt course over 5 furlongs in a blistering :59.1 breezing. Despite his best Beyer coming in the Whitney, I do not think he will get away with the same pace advantage in this next out. The only time he put back-to-back wins happened when he broke his maiden and came back to win the Dwyer (Grade 2) at Belmont Park last year. He has raced at Saratoga 3 times and has a 1-1-1 race record. I can see him placing again, but a win might be out of reach unless he can prove he has improved since last year. Alvarado has a 13% win rate and 44% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Alvarado has a 17% win rate and 33% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 12 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Guillot has a 11% win rate and 44% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga (2013-2014). Guillot has a 17% win rate and 50% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 6 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Alvarado and Guillot have a 25% win rate out of 4 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 20% win rate out of 5 starts overall this year (2013-2014). If he gets away with his own pace again, he wins. If not, he will get another 2nd or 3rd place finish. Depends on Itsmyluckyday and if he shows his speed this time around the Spa.

(Post Postion: 5)
5- Prayer for Relief (12/1)
Jockey: John Velasquez
Trainer: Dale Romans

Prayer for Relief has not won a race since being transferred to Dale Romans in April. John Velasquez has ridden him twice before, but could not finish better than 2nd by a neck behind Revolutionary in the Pimlico Special (Grade 3). Since his closing 4th place finish in the Whitney, Romans has put 2 works into him at Saratoga. The first being over 5 furlongs on the firm Saratoga turf training track in 1:02.2 breezing and another 5 furlong work on the Saratoga dirt course in 1:01.3 breezing. I think the turf work might have been to see if he could run over the turf course but seems to show otherwise. In the Whitney, he broke slow out of the 2 post position with Joel Rosario aboard. He went as far back as 7th by 3 lengths until the stretch where he closed to finish 4th by 7.5 lengths behind Moreno and Itsmyluckyday. An excuse, if you want to give him one for that race, would be that they did not seem to be able to close into a pace setter that day. If this winless streak continues, I would give Prayer for Relief a long layoff and then point him to a 1 mile race later on. Velasquez has a 17% win rate and 48% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Velasquez has a 15% win rate and 44% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 66 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Romans has a 4% win rate and 29% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Romans has a 12% win rate and 36% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 25 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Velasquez and Romans have not won out of 3 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 10% win rate out of 10 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Use him underneath, not going to be a winner in my eyes.

(Post Postion: 6)
1a- Romansh (8/1)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Thomas Albertrani

Romansh gets Jose Ortiz as his regular rider again for Thomas Albertrani and makes the 2nd half of the 2 Godolphin Racing entries. He comes off of a flat race in the Whitney Stakes (Grade 1) with a 7th place finish. He has faced and lost against several competitors he faces again in his 13th lifetime start. Last time he started off of 3 disappointing races, he won the Discovery Handicap (Grade 3) and earned his best lifetime Beyer rating of 110 at the 1 & 1/8th miles distance at Aqueduct. If that pattern happens again, you might be able to catch him at a price. Since the Whitney, Albertrani has put 2 works into him at Saratoga over 4 furlongs in :51 breezing and 5 furlongs in 1:02.1 breezing. In the Whitney, he was bumped at the break and that seems to be the start of the end. He did not move much and finished 7th by 13.75 lengths. If patterns mean much, I would not count him out. Ortiz has a 15% win rate and 38% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Ortiz has a 17% win rate and 42% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 36 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Albertrani has a 16% win rate and 41% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Albertrani has a 6% win rate and 35% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 17 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Ortiz and Albertrani have a 25% win rate out of 4 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 20% win rate out of 40 starts overall this year (2013-2014). After a terrible race, he bounces back with an insane race. Use and could be an upset winner.

(Post Postion: 7)
6- Zivo (5/1)
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Trainer: Chad Brown

Zivo gets Jose Lezcano on for the 2nd consecutive time for Chad Brown since he has been on 6 race win streak. I was unlike the majority of people when I put Zivo on top in the Suburban Handicap (Grade 2) where he won by 3 lengths and earned his career best Beyer of 100 at 13/1. This horse has an amazing closing kick despite any obstacle to close and win. He has had 4 works over the Saratoga dirt course over 5 furlongs with the first at 1:01.4 breezing on 8/3. The other works were on 8/10 in 1:02 breezing, 8/17 in 1:02 breezing and the final work on 8/24 in 1:01.1 breezing. I love those works to keep him in form off of his latest win. In his last start, he broke slow out of the gate and seemed to be done for being 11th by 11 lengths. It was not until the field reached a mile where Lezcano maneuvered him through traffic on the rail to close and win by 3 lengths over Moreno and Prayer for Relief. That race showed how strong of a competitor he really can be. This will be another step up in class for him, but I do think that this 1st of 2 Brown entries can make this his 7th win. Lezcano has a 12% win rate and 42% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Lezcano has a 12% win rate and 43% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 42 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Brown has a 23% win rate and 54% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Brown has a 15% win rate and 30% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 20 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Lezcano and Brown have a 13% win rate out of 8 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 25% win rate out of 81 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Fast or slow pace, does not matter to him. Traffic or clear, does not matter to him. I will keep riding him on my tickets with Lezcano sticking around for this first Brown entrant.

(Post Postion: 8)
7- Norumbega (10/1)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Trainer: Claude McGaughey III

Norumbega comes out of the Suburban Handicap (Grade 2) as well, but Claude McGaughey III adds the blinkers for the first time in this 15th start. McGaughey III does have a 14% win rate with 1st time blinkers and blinkers on in 22 starts. Javier Castellano gets on him for the first time and this seems to be a pattern for Castellano himself: gets on for the first time and wins. Joel Rosario rode him in his last 2 starts and had him close to win in the Brooklyn Handicap (Grade 2) to win by a neck over Micromanage and earned his career best Beyer of 101. He has been working over at Fair Hill since his flat effort in the Suburban Handicap. His last 2 works were over 4 furlongs in :48.2 and :47.4 breezing. Since Castellano gets on for the first time, he comes off of good and improving works, and gets blinkers on for the first time tells me that he can do well to make this another win off of a layoff. Castellano has a 26% win rate and 57% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Castellano has a 25% win rate and 52% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 63 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. McGaughey has a 21% win rate and 46% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. McGaughey has a 25% win rate and 50% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 8 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Castellano and McGaughey have a 23% win rate out of 22 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 22% win rate out of 109 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Castellano jumps on for the first time and he has a 2 for 2 record at the Spa, cannot say no. I see him as a winner or 2nd place finisher.

(Post Postion: 9)
8- Last Gunfighter (15/1)
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Trainer: Chad Brown

Last Gunfighter makes the 2nd half of the 2 Chad Brown entries and gets Joe Bravo back on for the 3rd time. Bravo has ridden Last Gunfighter to 2 wins in both of his starts on him. Since his last start, he has worked twice for Brown over the 4 furlong Saratoga dirt course in :48.3 and :49.3 breezing. In his last race, he broke flat out of the 9 post position and then closed with Castellano aboard to finish 5th by 10.75 lengths in the Whitney Stakes (Grade 1). If Bravo getting out makes any difference, he should run a better race. He still brakes from an outside post position, but with Bravo back on and his 2 wins already with him, you might have a price winner. Bravo has a 7% win rate and 30% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Bravo has a 9% win rate and 36% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 22 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Brown has a 23% win rate and 54% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Brown has 15% win rate and 30% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 20 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Bravo and Brown have a 29% win rate out of 7 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 33% win rate out of 27 starts overall this year (2013-2014). Bravo has not lost with him yet, which gives reason to believe that this could be a Brown play to push the pace or at least make the exotics again.

(Post Postion: 10)
9- Stephanoatsee (30/1)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: Nicholas Zito

Joel Rosario gets on Stephanoatsee for the first time for Nicholas Zito off of a closing 2nd by 2 lengths finish in an $80K optional claiming race at 1 & 1/8th miles distance over the Saratoga dirt course with Jose Lezcano aboard. Since that last start, Zito has put 3 works on the Saratoga dirt training track over 4 furlongs in :49.3, :48.3, and :47.4 breezing. These steady increase in his works tells me that Zito has confidence in him to make his first start back into Graded Stakes company a great one with Rosario on. In his last start, he broke well from the 5 post position and was able to close with Jose Lezcano aboard. In the stretch, he was able to come 5 wide and close to finish 2nd by 2 lengths behind Abraham. That race showed what kind of horse he really can be if he can be given a good ride. Being the son of A.P. Indy, he does have the breeding go the distance, but out of his 7 lifetime starts at the distance he has only won once. Rosario has a 17% win rate and 47% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Rosario has a 21% win rate and 53% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 62 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Zito has a 10% win rate and 45% in the top 3 rate at Saratoga. Zito has a 8% win rate and 23% in the top 3 rate overall this year in 13 Graded Stakes starts on the dirt or all-weather track. Together, Rosario and Zito have a 25% win rate out of 4 starts at Saratoga (2013-2014) and a 14% win rate out of 7 starts overall this year (2013-2014). First time Rosario entices respect, but he has not performed well since February 2nd at Santa Anita in the Strub Stakes (Grade 2). I want to use him just because of his works and Rosario.

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Pace Projection
1/4 Pole: Micromanage and Moreno with 1, 2, 7, 1a
1/2 Pole: Micromanage, Moreno, and Itsmyluckyday with 7, 1, 1a
3/4 Pole: Micromanage, Itsmyluckyday, & Moreno with 7, 5, 9
Stretch: Itsmyluckyday & Micromanage with 6, 7, 1a, 9

Recommended Wagering ($100.00 Budget)
$2 Win & Place ($4.00)
Zivo (6)

$1 Part-Wheel Exacta ($18.00)
6, 7, 2
2, 1(1a), 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

$0.50 Part-Wheel Trifecta ($37.50)
6, 7, 2
2, 1(1a), 6, 7, 8, 9
2, 1(1a), 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

$0.10 Part-Wheel Superfecta ($36.00)
6, 7, 2
2, 1(1a), 6, 7, 8, 9
2, 1(1a), 4, 6, 7, 8, 9
2, 1(1a), 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

Total Cost: $95.50

Antonio Tristino is a 21-year-old handicapper who grew up in the horse racing industry. His first experience at the racetrack was Arlington Park when he was 6-months-old. Over the years, he's learned various ways to handicap Thoroughbred horse races, and combines these handicapping methods into his everyday analysis of Thoroughbred races. Tristino graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Management in May 2014. Visit his blog at andotrist20.blogspot.com