Happy Woodwa…I mean…Happy Jockey Club Gold Cup Day!
Today marks a significant change to the NYRA stakes schedule as two Grade Is – the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Flower Bowl will be run at Saratoga after being longtime fixtures of the Belmont Fall meet. The Woodward Stakes has been shifted back downstate after being run at Saratoga since 2006, and will be run on October 2nd at Belmont.
The most memorable of the fifteen Woodward Stakes run at Saratoga was certainly Rachel Alexandra’s “raises the rafters at the Spa” win in 2009. Watch that replay if you want a thrill. It might be my favorite call by Tom Durkin. He calls it with all the skill of one of the finest race callers ever, combined with the deep passion of a horseracing fan.

Race 11 – Flower Bowl – Grade I
One Mile And Three Furlongs On The Inner Turf For Fillies and Mares Four Years Old And Upward

September 4th, 2021

The Flower Bowl was traditionally contested at a mile and a quarter at Belmont. However, the distance is extended to eleven furlongs this year as the Saratoga track configuration doesn’t allow for ten furlong turf races. Trainer Chad Brown goes for his record seventh training win in this race with three runners in the field, and John Velazquez attempts to win his record sixth Flower Bowl.

The Runners

La Signare: A stalk and pounce type but is the likely early leader here given the lack of pace. Has a second and two thirds this year from four starts. This Brendan Walsh trainee last ran a decent third (98 Beyer) to Althiqa in the Diana. While she does get minor awards on a regular basis, she has not won in nine starts dating back to March 2020. Those eight starts were all in Graded Stakes. Stretches out to three turns for the first time. She ran fifth in this race last year when it was contested at ten furlongs at Belmont. Can get a minor award.

American Bridge: This one ships in from Italy where she won her last start in a Group III turf stakes race at San Siro in Italy. Has run on both poly tracks and turf with two wins from six starts on the turf. Owned by Peter Brant, this Jean-Claude Rouget trained filly has won two of four starts this year. A bit of a unknown as she was running mainly on second tier circuits in Europe. I’ll take a wait and see.

War Like Goddess: This four year old has been good for Bill Mott from the get-go. She did not make it to the track until September of her three year old season but is five for six since then and is on a three race win streak. Last out she very easily handled the field in the Glens Falls (99 Beyer) at a mile and a half as the odds on choice. She circled the field on the far turn in that race and was hand ridden to an easy victory by three plus lengths. She can also sit closer if need be and has a deadly turn of foot. The only concern is that she is not going to get any pace to run at today. But she will be 3/5 against this group … and that will be an overlay. The Pick at a short price.

My Sister Nat: This Chad Brown trained mare has only three wins from eighteen starts – but she has seven seconds. She was easily bested by War Like Goddess last out in the Glens Falls. Don’t let the running line fool you – War Like Goddess could have won by ten lengths if she was asked. Last win for this one was in the 2020 Waya at a mile and a half – so distance is not an issue. How to turn the tables on War Like Goddess most certainly is. Play to get a piece, but not top prize.

Lovely Lucky: Comes in here for Tom Albertrani off a win in an optional claimer earlier this meet. Two of her three wins are at today’s distance and over the Saratoga turf. Horse for course and distance angles with this one. Preferred running style is to be up close to the pace – that shouldn’t be a problem today with the lack of pace. Needs an improvement second off the layoff.

Great Island: Comes in here off a win in the nine furlong Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth. That day she sat back and made one run. She was last at the eighth pole her stride lengthened noticeably, she gobbled up ground, and got there. In her prior efforts, she stayed closer to the pace but lacked the turn of foot in the lane. She was a good third to Mean Mary in the Gallorette at Pimlico two back. Going longer should suit her where she can lope along and make one run. Using underneath.

Coastana: She did not make it to the track until the beginning of her four year old season. But has finished in the exacta in four of her five starts with two wins including a victory last out in an allowance race a month ago where she appreciated the three turns. She trailed the pack early – moved into position on the backstretch and exploded on the far turn, circling the field, and was ridden home in hand by Luis Saez. The connections will find out what they have on their hands after today. Water is too deep today.

Race 12 – Jockey Club Gold Cup – Grade I
One Mile And A Quarter on the Dirt On For Three Year Olds And Upward

September 4th, 2021

The Runners

Forza Di Oro: Bill Mott has this colt going in the right direction with an easy win in an allowance race last out first off an eight month layoff with a 101 Byer. In his most recent he tracked the leader and drew off in that nine furlong affair over muddy going last month. That 101 Beyer pairs up with a 101 Beyer earned last year in winning the Discovery Stakes. Two good works on the back of that win most recent indicate all that she is ready to roll. Probably the pacesetter today. Additional furlong should suit this one just fine. The Pick.

Max Player: Upset the field last out in the Suburban Handicap (101 Beyer) sitting just off the speed and gamely making a run on the outside besting Mystic Guide that day on a sloppy track. Two of three lifetime wins are on sloppy tracks. Will need a repeat of that effort today. Feels like last time was the time.

Chess Chief: Dallas Stewart had this runner competing in two turn dirt stakes races at the Fairgrounds and Churchill earlier this year winning the New Orleans Classic in the process. However, last out there was a failed turf experiment at 4/5 in the Virginia bred Bert Allen Stakes at Colonial Downs – finishing a distant fourth. Moves back to the dirt where he was competitive at the Grade II and III levels. Working well at Saratoga in preparation for this one. Possibilities.

Happy Saver: This Pletcher trained colt won his first five starts including winning this race last year at Belmont with a 103 Beyer. There were issues and this one did not come back to the track until May 2021with a win in a $100k optional claimer. Last time out in June he was hung wide on both turns in the Suburban Stakes, but finished a decent third. Serious player here.

Night Ops: A consistent underneath runner, he has hit the board in all six starts this year but does not yet have a win from those efforts. Tried to get one under the belt in the restricted Alydar Stakes last time, but couldn’t best Art Collector who he followed all the way around the track but did earn a career top 101 Beyer for his trouble. Logical contender on the improve.

Forewarned: Uriah St. Lewis sends this one out off a second place finish in an Ohio Bred stakes at Thistledown. This one has specialized in those Ohio bred races. Faces open company here but has not won an open company race in two and half years and that was an allowance race at Parx. Has two wins at ten furlongs but seems very much up against it here. Will be the longest shot on the board for a reason.