Applebee: Closer Look – Turf Classic/Woodward 9.30.23
Note: According to a NYRA press release, “The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) has moved Saturday’s 11-race card at Aqueduct Racetrack to Sunday and pushed Sunday’s 10-race program to Wednesday due to torrential rainfall causing widespread flooding and hazardous conditions in the New York metropolitan area.”
Happy Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Day!
We have four graded stakes at Aqueduct headlined by the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic along with three Grade IIs; the Woodward, the Vosburgh, and the Gallant Bloom. Plan for off going as it appears the NYC metro area will get several inches of rain Friday into Saturday.
Trivia Question: Only two fillies have won the Woodward – who were they? Hint, they both won during the fifteen year span when the Woodward was contested at Saratoga.
Race 6 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Grade I
One Mile and One Half on the Turf for Three Year Olds and Upward
The is a deep and competitive field that features the first three finishers in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. All three have questions to answer however, and a boggy course adds to the intrigue.
- Grand Sonata: Won last out in a second off the layoff (91 Beyer) against optional claimers. Nifty run in tight between horses let him get into the clear. Will need a significant improvement to contend. Lasix comes OFF. Passing.
- Soldier Rising: Was a good second in the Sword Dancer (100 Beyer) over the yielding surface. Two back in the Bowling Green he had to check severely due to Rebel’s Romance clipping heels. Hasn’t won against graded stakes company, but has hit the board a number of times. Gets a piece.
- Stone Age: Was the favorite in the Sword Dancer but didn’t show much when asked while finishing fifth. (92 Beyer). That was the first start since February and the first in the Chad Brown barn. Last year he finished second for Aiden O’Brien in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Has danced the big dances, but hasn’t won in well over a year. Irad takes over. Dangerous at a price.
- Adhamo: Was a surprising favorite in the Arlington Million in his first start in ten months where he was OK, but didn’t couldn’t run down the leaders. Might have needed a race. Will want some pace to run into. Potential at a price.
- Rebel’s Romance: In his last effort he looked loaded in the Bowling Green, but as he started to move on the turn he clipped heels and lost the rider. That was his first try in four months after a disappointing effort at Meydan. Won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2022 and if regains that form he’ll be very tough. Five for six at today’s distance. William Buick ships in to ride for Appleby/Godolphin. The Pick.
- War Like Goddess: Defending champion of this race comes back to take on the colts again off a bit of a freshening after spiking a fever following the Glens Falls. She looked a winner that day but was out finished by McKulick (95 Beyer) after being rank early. She’s not been in the best form this year with one win in three starts. Six for eight at today’s twelve furlong distance. Alvarado takes over the mount for Rosario. Win candidate.
- So High: Longshot runner for Naipaul Chatterpaul should set the pace but has not shown the ability to threaten at this level. Has not won a race in three years. Not today.
- Pioneering Spirit: Linda Rice has worked miracles by moving him to the turf earning five wins from six starts since May as he progressed from maiden claimers to winning the Bernard Baruch (100 Beyer). In the Baruch he was wheeled back in nine days and was much the best as he drew off in the last sixteenth. Only blemish on his recent record was a distant third in the Sword Dancer. Will face similar soft going again. Exotics.
- Astronaut: Has not raced since the Mac Diarmida in March where he was well positioned but was flat late. Two back he won the Red Smith (102 Beyer) over this course last Fall going eleven furlongs. Might try to take them all the way. Live Longshot.
Race 7 – The Woodward – Grade II
One Mile and One Furlong On the Dirt For Three Year Olds and Upward
The Woodward Stakes was downgraded to a Grade II this year. Life Is Good (won the Whitney, BC Dirt Mile, & Pegasus World Cup) and Art Collector (won the Pegasus World Cup) were the last two winners of this race. I am not sure how that gets you downgraded, but yet here we are.
- Charge It: Finished fourth in the Whitney, was one paced in the stretch, and didn’t threaten the winner. Easily won the Suburban Stakes to win by open lengths two back (106 Beyer). Runs best when he is up on the pace, but he’ll have company today. Looking elsewhere.
- Law Professor: Has been off since the Pimlico Special on Preakness Day where he was flat in the stretch and failed to menace – a stumble at the start may have had an impact. Finished second in this race last year behind Life is Good. Has won twice over this surface and prefers to be in a pace pressing position which should be his set up today. Has won twice over an off track. Using.
- Algiers: Bit of a wild card as he ships in for his first North American start. Was in career best form this winter with two wins in Group 2 races at Meydan and a strong second in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup where he was led in the stretch before being run down. Connections are looking to see what he can do on North American dirt surfaces, and it looks like a sloppy strip is in store as well. Wait and see.
- Zandon: Has finished second in each of his last three starts including the Whitney (100 Beyer). Has not won since the 2022 Blue Grass but has finished behind some good ones in recent starts including White Abarrio, Cody’s Wish, and Repo Rocks. Has never finished out of the money in six starts at this distance. Finds the right group today with a fair amount speed signed on that should set up for a mid-pack stalking trip. The Pick.
- Pipeline: Couldn’t keep up in the Forego so he now stretches back to two turns. You can get a Chad runner at a big price. Demand it.
- Costa Terra: Linda Rice has markedly improved this one since claiming him last Spring. Was very unlucky to not win either of his last two starts. Should sit mid-pack and come running. Lasix comes OFF. Possible underneath in exotics.
- Un Ojo: Was on the Derby trail last year after an upset win in the Rebel, but a poor Arkansas Derby derailed that plan. Most recent two starts were for two different barns and both were decent efforts – but below the level to compete here. The “Other” Linda. Passing.
- Tyson: Finished third in his first attempt on dirt in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (100 Beyer) after two stakes wins on the synthetic at Woodbine. That Gold Cup showed he belongs here and can compete on the dirt. Gets the cutback to nine furlongs. Should be in the second flight and should threaten in the stretch. Castellano picks up the mount. Hits the board.
- O’Connor: Saffie Joseph picked up this horse a year ago and he has tried graded stakes five times with two seconds and a third to show for his efforts. Versatile runner who can stalk or close. Face some serious ones here. Use in exotics.
- Film Star: The third Linda Rice trainee in this field comes back to the track in just thirteen days. Won his last two efforts, both of which were at today’s distance, but now steps up to graded stakes company. Likes to be up front controlling the race. That won’t probably be possible given his outside draw and the other speed. Lasix comes OFF. Race flow doesn’t suit.
Trivia Answer: Havre de Grace (2011) and Rachel Alexandra (2009) are the two fillies who won the Woodward. That Rachel performance and Durkin’s call – one for the ages.