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In 2018, it’s a wide-open Woodward Stakes

August 30, 2018

In 2018, it’s a wide-open Woodward Stakes

For handicappers who like stakes races with large fields and wide-open possibilities, then the 2018 Woodward Stakes is the big race for you. The $750,000 Grade 1 stake has drawn a full field of fourteen older males with no superstar like last year’s winner Gun Runner.

This year, the Older Male Division has a standout of Accelerate in the west and Diversify in the east, but beyond those two it is very hard to pick out the next best horse and so it is in Saturday’s Woodward.

The 4-1 morning line favorite Gunnevera returns to Saratoga, a track where he has found success in the past. As a 2-year-old, he won the Saratoga Special. Last year, he unleashed his big closing move to finish second behind West Coast in the Travers. After competing with the best in the biggest Grade 1s in the world, Gunnevera has just returned to the track since recuperating from a minor injury in the Dubai World Cup. His easy win in a recent Gulfstream allowance indicates his readiness to compete again.

Todd Pletcher, who has won this race three times in the past, most recently with Liam’s Map in 2015, has three horses in the field led by the 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit.

The gray son of Tapit was last seen running fourth behind Diversify in the Whitney at Saratoga. Tapwrit has not been able to find the winner’s circle since that victory in the third leg of the Triple Crown, but Pletcher thinks he can win the Woodward.

“I thought his two works since the Whitney were good, we’re hoping to catch a fast track and we think part of the reason he tired out in the Whitney was the sealed nature of the track,” Pletcher said. “He’s training where we wanted him to be, now, we need him to step up and run the race he’s capable of. In training, he seems like he’s in as good of form as ever. Hopefully, the surface will make a difference this time.”

In addition to Tapwrit, Pletcher sends out the fan-favorite Patch, who was third in the Belmont Stakes behind his stablemate and his third horse is the veteran Rally Cry.

“I think the mile and an eighth suits him [Patch] well and hopefully he’s the type of horse who can benefit from a solid pace as well,” Pletcher added. “He’s not the most enthusiastic breeze horse, but he seems to show up at game time.”

Trainer Dallas Stewart has Seeking the Soul in the big field. This Charles Fipke homebred is one of only three Grade 1 winners in the field. He won the Clark Handicap back in November before finishing fifth in the Pegasus World Cup. Stewart used a second place run in a stakes race at Indiana Grand as a prep for the Woodward.

“He’s doing great; he had a good work here and wasn’t blowing hard [despite it] being a very fast work,” Stewart said. “He’s won here already, so we’re looking forward to running him Saturday.”

The Woodward is carded as race 11 out of 12 on a big day of racing at Saratoga that includes two Grade 1s, a Grade 2 and 3. Post-time for the Woodward is scheduled for

6:47 pm ET.

Here is the field in post-position order with morning lines odds for the mile and an eighth Woodward:

1 Yoshida (JPN) [5-1] – Rosario, Mott; 2 Imperative [30-1] – Cohen, Quartarolo; 3 Patch [20-1] – L. Saez, Pletcher; 4 Tapwrit [6-1] – Velazquez, Pletcher, 5 Hence [20-1] – Santana, Jr., Asmussen; 6 Term of Art [30-1] – J. Alvarado, Cox; 7 Kurilov [10-1] – J. Ortiz, C. Brown; 8 Discreet Lover [8-1] – Franco, U. St. Lewis; 9 Gunnevera [4-1] – E. Zayas, Sano; 10 Seeking the Soul [9-2] – Castellano, Stewart; 11 Leofric [20-1] – Carmouche, Cox; 12 Sunny Ridge [8-1] – I. Ortiz, Servis; 13 Zanotti [20-1] – Davis, J. Guerrero; 14 Rally Cry [20-1] – M. Smith, Pletcher.

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