A son of Langfuhr --Donation, by Lord Avie, Lawyer Ron will be favored in the nine-furlong test for 3-year-olds and up. The high expectations are in response to his spectacular performance in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) July 28, in which the 4-year-old colt won by 4 3/4-lengths while setting the 1 1/8-mile course record (1:46.64).
Pletcher is cautiously optimistic about another quality start by the five-time graded stakes winner, which could lead to an appearance in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) Oct. 27. The other option is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
"Anytime you are coming off a top career race and a track record-setting performance at Saratoga, you are concerned that you are going to run as well as he did that day,” Pletcher said. “He might not have to run as well to win.
“Obviously, we’d love to see Lawyer Ron do as well as he did last time. The horse is more cooperative than he once was, but I don’t know that in every scenario he’d relax as well as he did (Whitney) day. He benefited from the outside post and being in the clear.”
Lawyer Ron, who will leave from the rail, has placed in 18 of 23 career starts and has earned more than $2.3 million for Hines Racing. He has won three times this year, including the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and an allowance contest at Gulfstream Park. John Velazquez will ride.
Pletcher will also saddle 5-year-old multiple stakes winner Magna Graduate, who ran sixth in the Whitney. Prior to that lackluster effort, the son of Honor Grades was on a nice run, winning three graded stakes in a five-start stretch, and just missed by a head to Flashy Bull in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs June 16 .
Magna Graduate has won nine times in 24 starts for Elisabeth Alexander, earning more than $2.2 million.
“I think Magna Graduate ran a decent race in the Whitney,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately, he was stuck down inside the whole way, which he really doesn’t like, and then he had to check at the eighth pole, which cost him a placing.”
Pletcher’s toughest competition could come from Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who also has a pair of challengers in Wanderin Boy and Sun King. Six-year-old Wanderin Boy ran nicely in the Whitney and was only a half-length behind Lawyer Ron at the top of the stretch before failing to keep up. The Seeking the Goldhorse has won four graded stakes in his career for Stone Farm and could be a pacesetter.
Sun King has not been a factor in his last two efforts, including a 10th-place finish in the Whitney. The 5-year-old Charismatic horse has not won since April 2006, but has placed in five of those eight losses.
“Sun King had a bad trip,” Zito said about his race in the Whitney. “He got impeded immediately coming out of the gate and he got hit in the eye with a dirt clog. We’re hoping that he can run better.”
Another Hall of Famer, Allen Jerkens, will bring a tough competitor to the starting gate in his 4-year-old colt Political Force. A son of Unbridled's Song, the Joseph Allen homebred is coming off a victory in the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont June 30. Before that, Political Force started five times in 2007, winning twice in allowance competition and placing in three graded stakes. Saratoga’s leading jockey, Cornelio Velasquez, will ride.
Jerkens won the Woodward in 1973 with Prove Out, defeating Secretariat.
One of Political Force’s losses came in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), when he finished three-quarters of a length behind another rival, Corinthian, who is trained by Jerkens’ son, Jimmy. Corinthian, a 4-year-old son of Pulpit, followed up that win with a sixth-place finish in the Suburban. He has won five of 10 career starts, two of them graded.
On Aug. 30, Corinthian breezed three furlongs in :36.88 at Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track. “Everything is set and he’s ready to go,” Jimmy Jerkens said. “All we can do from here is hope for the best.”
Diamond Stripes and Brass Hat, who ran in both the Whitney and Stephen Foster, round out the field of eight.
$500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:49 p.m.) 3 & Up, 1 1/8-miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Lawyer Ron, 126, John Velazquez
2. Diamond Stripes, 126, Edgar Prado
3. Magna Graduate, 126, Garrett Gomez
4. Sun King, 126, Alan Garcia
5. Corinthian, 126, Kent Desormeaux
6. Wanderin Boy, 126, Rafael Bejarano
7. Political Force, 126, Cornelio Velasquez
8. Brass Hat, 126, Willie Martinez