The end of summer is upon us, which means the Saratoga meet will be coming to a close. The Spa’s closing weekend is highlighted by the 65th running of the Woodward Stakes. This $750,000 G1 affair will be run at 1-1/8 miles around 2 turns on the dirt course. This is not a win-and-you’re-in Breeder’s Cup race, so none of the top older horses are in the lineup. This will be a great spot for a 2nd tier horse to capture a G1 event.
With the absence of a dominant favorite, 14 horses are entered, including the familiar names of Gunnevera, Tapwrit, Patch and Yoshida.
As we keep seeing, the Saratoga dirt strip has been running with an advantage to the speed. Contenders need to be on or close to the pace, even if the pace is hot. 36% of 9 furlong races are won wire to wire with most winners being within 2 lengths throughout.
This race provides very little pace to run at. No one in the field has shown a consistent proclivity for the front. Term of Art and Leofric went to the front in a G3 at Mountaineer where they set a tepid pace and dueled to the wire.
Of the big names in the race, I can find reasons to dismiss them all. Yoshida is 4 for 10 lifetime on the grass but has never run on the dirt. Patch, the one-eyed sentimental favorite, has never won beyond an allowance condition. Tapwrit’s only win in 2 years was the G1 Belmont last year. Hence, a winner in his last, has never followed up a win with another good effort. Then there is Gunnevera. Gunnevera was running with top horses, with his best run being a 2nd place finish in last year’s Travers. However, a hoof injury in Dubai sidelined him for 4 months. He came back to capture an allowance event, but this spot is a step back up into the big leagues.
The horse I landed on is the 12-1 long shot Sunny Ridge. Trained by Jason Servis, Sunny Ridge has been off since winning a non-graded stake at Belmont in July, but some of his top recent speed figures have come off of layoffs. Though he mainly races at 1 mile or 1-1/16 miles, he was a clear 2nd in the G2 Brooklyn at a mile and a half, so the distance should not be a problem. He has the ability to be up close and his consistency gives me the confidence that he can stay on against this group. With no pace in this race, he should be in the mix the whole trip.
I will take the 12-1 morning line and play Sunny Ridge for the win.