2009 Woodward Stakes Entries, Odds, Picks and Analysis
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com
Rachel Alexandra faces unfavorable pace scenario in Woodward at Saratoga as she attempts to make history
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Rachel Alexandra will be up against history when she attempts to become the first female ever to win the 56th running of the $750,000 Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Racecourse on Saturday, September 5, 2009. She also faces an unfavorable pace scenario.
At underlay odds of 1-2 well be looking elsewhere.
Its not that we dont want Rachel Alexandra to win – we just want to make money on the race. If Rachel pulls this off we might even move her from the very good category to great. Its not that we think that a 3-year-old filly cant beat older males either. They do it in Europe on a regular basis. Its possible, just not probable in the 2009 Woodward, for a number of reasons.
Keep in mind, we didnt think Rachel Alexandra would win the 2009 Preakness either, and she gutted out that victory the hard way. She looked pretty special that day, and despite the fact that we bet against her, were a sucker for heart and we loved watching her dig in late to hold on. Its likely shell encounter a pace scenario in the Woodward similar to the one she handled in the Preakness, but these horses are older and tougher and they can bury you late.
Of course, if Rachel gets a loose lead, opens up and sets even a moderate pace, she could run away from this bunch based on her last two Beyer Speed Figures of 111 in the Mother Goose and 116 in the Haskell Invitational. The next highest Beyer Speed Figure run by any of the other horses in the Woodward is 110, but take note – that number was recorded in this race last year when 2009 Woodward entrant Past the Point set a good pace before succumbing late to champion Curlin. And Past the Point isnt the only speed horse in this years Woodward.
The 2009 Woodward sets up with four ralliers and four speed horses including Rachel Alexandra. The potential ralliers are Bullsbay, Cool Coal Man, Macho Again and Asiatic Boy. The speed horses besides Rachel Alexandra are Da Tara, Its a Bird, and Past the Point.
Da Tara won the Belmont last year in wire-to-wire fashion but he has since proved to be a rather mediocre speed horse that isnt really that fast. In his last start when unable to get the lead in the Albert the Great at Saratoga on August 10, Da Tara was eased. Hard to like, but as part of the coupled 1-1A entry with Cool Coal Man, hell probably be sending for the lead and should be part of the early pace scenario.
Its a Bird forced a solid pace when winning the Oaklawn Handicap at the Woodward distance of 1 1/8-miles three starts ago and recorded a 107 Beyer Speed Figure but he was later disqualified for having higher than acceptable levels of the prohibited anti-inflammatory medication Naproxen in his system. He then came back to win the Lone Star Park Handicap at 1 1/16-miles from just off the pace with another 107 Beyer Speed Figure. In his last start however, on July 4 in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont going 1 -miles, Its a Bird sat close and lacked any closing punch after settling just off the pace, finishing seventh. Hes been freshened since then and could be sitting on an explosive race, and certainly could be part of the pace scenario.
Weve already talked about Past the Point, who set the pace in last years Woodward before succumbing to Curlin. Hed had a 1 1/8-mile prep before the Woodward last year however, compared to this years winning seven furlong prep in an allowance race at Saratoga on August 6. And that victory came off almost a six-month layoff. Were wondering if hell be fit enough with only a single prep.
Rachel Alexandra needs little introduction. Shes the best 3-year-old in training right now and has proven she can rate from just off the pace or go to the lead. If she opens up early in the Woodward she could be long gone. The more likely scenario however is that at least one of the speed horses will stick with her for at least seven furlongs to a mile and force her to play her hand early, setting the race up for the ralliers. Of course, thats what we thought when she won the Preakness. These horses are better than what Rachel Alexandra has been beating up on however, at least on paper, and both Its a Bird and Past the Point have run Beyer Speed Figures that can make Rachel run on their best day.
All of the ralliers appear to be capable of running a 107 Beyer Speed Figure and possibly higher. Cool Coal Man parlayed a perfect trip inside from just off the pace to run away with the Albert the Great at Saratoga on August 10, but he wasnt beating anything in that race and were just not convinced he can run with the top handicap horses. He does have one minor angle going for him in that he seems to have changed his running style from speed oriented to off the pace, but that probably wont be enough in here.
The three remaining ralliers are difficult to separate on their best day. Bullsbay was never going to be caught by Macho Again after his surprise bullet move that swished him into the lead in the Whitney at Saratoga going 1 1/8-miles on August 8. He held on to defeat Macho Again by 1 -lengths that day but apparently his last 3/8ths were accomplished in a slow 38 seconds. He was overmatched in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11 and in his start previous to that and he lost to both Macho Again and Asiatic Boy in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8-miles with no apparent excuse. Still, Bullsbay is capable of running a 107 Beyer Speed Figure and if you watch his move in the Whitney youll be impressed.
Macho Again is a tough, hard-trying horse who got caught by surprise when Bullsbay made his bullet move in the Whitney. He was only 1 -lenghths back at the wire however, and he already holds a victory over Bullsbay. And he likes Saratoga, having won the Jim Dandy at the Woodward distance there last year. Macho Again doesnt have the acceleration of some of the others in the Woodward, but if his late run is timed perfectly and the race sets up properly he will beat you. Also note that when Macho Again won the New Orleans Handicap at the Woodward distance in the slop on March 14 he left fellow Woodward contender Its a Bird in his wake.
Asiatic Boy is the sleeper in the field. He arrived in North America this spring after racing competitively at Nad Al Sheba against some tough rivals. While racing in the United Arab Emirates he won both the Al Shindagha Sprint going six furlongs and the Maktoum Challenge going 1 -miles so hes versatile. In his first start in North America on June 13 he didnt have the best of it in the stretch drive and finished second beaten a length by Macho Again in the Stephen Foster. In his next start in the Suburban Handicap on July 4 at Belmont, Asiatic Boy again finished second, this time beaten two lengths by Dry Martini. Both of those races resulted in Beyer Speed Figures of 98, but we wonder if trainer Kiaran McLaughin didnt start to point for the Woodward immediately after the Suburban, or even before. Asiatic Boy is another who would need a perfect pace scenario, but he gives us the impression that we havent seen the best of him yet.
Assuming Rachel doesnt steal the Woodward, well be looking for one of the ralliers to win it. While we really want to play Bullsbay based on his visually impressive move to win the Whitney, were going to go with Macho Again and hope to get a nice overlay price. Well also be boxing Macho Again, Asiatic Boy and Bullsbay in the exotics and using Rachel Alexandra in the mix underneath them.
If Rachel Alexandra wins the Woodward we lose. But we do get a consolation prize.
We get to watch history in the making.
2009 Woodward Picks
1.Macho Again 2. Asiatic Boy 3. Bullsbay 4. Rachel Alexandra
The Woodward Entries, Odds and Jockeys
Race 10, Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, September 5, 2009
3-year-olds and up, Grade 1, Purse $750,000, Distance 1 1/8 Miles Dirt
Pgm No. – Post Position – Odds – Jockey
1 – 1 Da’ Tara (12-1) Lezcano
1A- 4 Cool Coal Man (12-1) Velazquez
2 – 2 Bullsbay (6-1) Rose
3 – 3 Rachel Alexandra (1-1) Borel
4 – 5 Macho Again (8-1) Albarado
5 – 6 It’s a Bird (10-1) Leparoux
6 – 7 Asiatic Boy (10-1) Garcia
7 – 8 Past the Point (15-1) Prado