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Woodward Stakes preview

The lead-in to the Breeders Cup provides some great American racing as the older horses take their share of the spotlight, rather than the classic generation who hog the attention around the Triple Crown. Tonight, at 2245 BST, we see the running of the time-honoured Woodward Stakes from Saratoga. Penning the preview is US racing aficionado and regular blog contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Woodward Grade 1 9 Furlongs

The Travers was where the three year olds were meant to lay down a marker but the hissing sound was Verrazano's bubble letting down - only excuse is he may be a best fresh. Will Take Charge is sneaky good in that not high time figures but has decisions over Oxbow and now the Travers field. Palace Malice probably the best of his generation despite his 3rd.

Now the older horses get to set out markers for the Breeders Cup and Horse of the Year honours in Saratoga's Woodward. Sadly Cross Traffic and Fort Larned are out. Otherwise this would have been a mid summer classic. The Whitney's 2nd 3rd 4th reacquaint with 6 scheduled to do combat if that is not the wrong metaphor at present. Best current UK prices (Coral (win only) and Lads). The pace looks to be Paynter but let's not take anything for granted.

1. Ron The Greek 10/1
Ran like Jimmy the Greek Snyder the other week. Possibly sucked into too early a move by the pace but has two to beat who beat him then. I can swerve him this time even at bigger odds in a lesser race. He's not quite been on in four starts this year but is only six it could be he's just not had it right. Tempting price.

2. Successful Dan 2/1
Wise's half brother and managed 2nd in the Whitney after throwing his jockey off and falling over prior. Mad'un! Out closed Ron the Greek last time but neither will likely have that pace to close into here. Looked an out and out stayer and if the Breeders Cup were at Churchill I'd be sneaky looking for him to do a Drosselmeyer sadly it's at speedbowl Santa Anita. UK Bookies have reacted like this was a turf race for me in making Successful Dan the favourite on collateral form I assume. Indeed he started 6s as did fellow closer Ron the Greek last time now 2s and 10s.

3. Fort Larned
scratched

4. Flat Out 5/1
Belmont's favourite son give or take Secretariat. Sadly this is Saratoga. Flat Out will be forward placed likely but not in the lead. He's run to 126 twice at Belmont on Timeform US speed ratings 118 at Saratoga or for you Brisnet boys out there his 2nd best rating in his last 10 starts was 108 at Saratoga (118 at Belmont) when Ron the Greek beat him when both behind Fort Larned in the 2012 Whitney. He is a very solid horse.

5. Paynter 10/3
Nearly died. Nearly won a classic. Will likely get the lead. Biggest TF figure is on synths this year when he had the run of a lesser race. His win over Nonios in the Haskell last year even with a likely favourable trip here does not make me think he necessarily holds off the others. Could be overbet on the PMU to boot ***STORY HORSE****. Take UK prices if you like him and want to be one of those with misty eyes as he returns to the winner's enclosure - 2/1 Morning Line with Fort Larned in the race.

6. Mucho Macho Man 9/2
I give the impression if he were to transported back 30 years he'd be 3 lengths off Secretariat in the Belmont and to be fair he could not pass To Honor and Serve last year in this or Fort Larned at the Breeders Cup or Cross Traffic last time. Has arguably the best form and likely to be suited by a tow in 2nd or 3rd. Hates a wet track by some evidence. DNF and a rating 40 clicks below best on sloppy tracks, There is actually no evidence he is anything but genuine.

7. Alpha 25/1
A Beta Male. Racing is a funny sport but it would not be funny if this Goat won, mostly because I said that prior. Dual 3yo Group 1 winner in form that has worked out terribly. Arguably of those who did not retire in the classics Paynter was near the top of last year's 3yo class this one less so. ***GOAT***

Conclusion

The Greek has been slightly off this year but would appeal more at UK odds although race does not appear to be a pace special setting up for a closer. Successful Dan is too short. I think Paynter gets passed and Alpha is not good enough under any reasonable scenario to win. The Greek under Paynter/MMM/FO might be rewarding but as a UK punter I only think win only.

Flat Out figures to get a great stalking trip and handles the wet Lads 5s stands out but 7/2 fair enough although suspect Mucho may be pulled. On fast it would have been Mucho Macho Man for me but the going is sloppy.

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