Woodward, Forego highlight final Saturday at the Spa
Woodward, Forego highlight final Saturday at the Spa
Mucho Macho Man, impressive winner of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 7, can continue his ascent into the upper echelons of the handicap division Saturday with a strong performance in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward at Saratoga at 1 1/8 miles.
After going zero-for-three in the 2011 classics, Mucho Macho Man has won four of his past five starts, the lone hiccup being a seventh-length defeat in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs. Despite not having a top-level win to his credit, the son of Macho Uno has prevailed against solid company this year. Arguably his most notable score was a 1 1/2-length tally in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic, where he defeated Ron the Greek and Turbo Compressor, whose top-levels scores this term include the Santa Anita Handicap, Stephen Foster Handicap and United Nations.
Mucho Man Man followed up his Sunshine Millions score with a two-length triumph in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, but went in reverse when a distant third to Successful Dan and Fort Larned in the Alysheba. He rebounded to take the Suburban by 2 1/2 lengths in a mild upset, completing nine furlongs in a swift 1:46 2/5.
The beaten favorite in the Suburban was To Honor and Serve, who re-opposes here for trainer Bill Mott. The Hall of Fame trainer subsequently blamed high heat and humidity for the colt's loss.
To Honor and Serve has enjoyed a slightly enigmatic career, winning races like the Grade 2 Remsen, Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1 Cigar Mile in fine style, but has also failed to live up to expectations in more prestigious spots.
Also not living up to the promise he showed last year has been Stay Thirsty, who's winless in four starts since taking the Grade 1 Travers 12 months ago. His steady decline in form was punctuated by his Suburban performance, where he finished fifth, beaten 13 1/2 lengths. The return to the Spa might help as the Todd Pletcher trainee owns an imposing 4-3-1-0 record on the Saratoga oval.
Pletcher also sends out Rule, who finished third in last year's Woodward. The son of Roman Ruler has raced only twice this year, taking the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup off a nine-month layoff, and then hitting a brick wall in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap where he dropped back to last by mid-stretch.
Black-type earners Trickmeister, Cease and Gourmet Dinner complete the field of seven.
Classic winner and Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap hero Shackleford gets back to work in the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego over seven furlongs. The Dale Romans charge cut back to six furlongs for the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap early in the Saratoga meet, but seemingly failed to handle the off-track conditions while breaking from the rail post. Shackleford struggled to stay in contention and wound up last of eight as the 6-5 favorite.
Jackson Bend is back to defend his Forego title after a near-tragic accident at the Oklahoma training track two weeks ago. The Nick Zito trainee was run into by another horse while on his routine morning gallop, and wound up on his back for five minutes before he was transported back to his stall.
Apparently having had only the wind knocked out of him, Jackson Bend has otherwise suffered no long-term damage following the incident. He was back on the worktab Monday, completing a half-mile in :49 3/5.
Jackson Bend has endured a below-par summer campaign, finishing unplaced in the Metropolitan and Grade 3 James Marvin since his photo-finish score in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in April.
James Marvin hero Pacific Ocean is back to try for another of Saratoga's elongated sprint tests. Rick Dutrow's gelding is a perfect three-for-three at the seven-furlong trip. Also lining up for Dutrow will be longshot Isn't He Perfect.
The highly-regarded Emcee is still seeking his first stakes for owner Godolphin Racing and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The lightly-raced four-year-old came close in the Vanderbilt, finishing third by a half-length after leading most of the way.
Completing the field are Caixa Eletronica, winner of the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and Grade 2 True North Handicap this year, Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap winner Hamazing Destiny, and Jersey Town, who is winless since taking the 2010 Cigar Mile.
Data Link is expected to be a solid favorite for the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf. The Shug McGaughey-trained colt missed an intended start in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap earlier in the meet due to wet course conditions, and has already notched the Grade 1 Maker's "46" Mile and Grade 2 Monmouth this term.
Grade 1 veteran Prince Will I Am makes his first start in more than 14 months in the Baruch. Prior to his injury-enforced layoff, the ridgling was developing into a marathon specialist with Grade 2 tallies in the W.L. McKnight Handicap and Mac Diarmida down in Florida.
Other notables in the Baruch field are Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap winner Guys Reward, a sluggish fourth in the Fourstardave last time, and Grade 2 hero Dominus, who makes his turf debut Saturday.
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