Successful Dan and Paynter , two horses who have overcome great physical difficulties to continue their racing careers, head a deep edition of the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 31.
The 1 1/8-mile Woodward, to be run as Race 10 with an approximate post time of 5:45 p.m. EDT on Saratoga's closing weekend, attracted a field of seven older horses, five of which are grade I winners. Cross Traffic , winner of the Aug. 3 Whitney Invitational (gr. I), will not run back in this spot but will point for the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park en route to the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Successful Dan, Morton Fink's 7-year-old homebred Successful Appeal gelding, is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. He was gearing toward the handicap races at Saratoga last season when a reoccuring suspensory injury took him out of action.
Back and better than ever, the half brother to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan enters off a strong second by three quarters of a length to Cross Traffic in the Whitney for trainer Charlie LoPresti. He came closing with a huge run after swinging six wide despite flipping prior to the race at the gap where horses enter the main track from the paddock.
LoPresti sent Successful Dan through three furlongs on the main track Aug. 28 in a final move before the Woodward; he was credited with a breeze in :37.15, third-fastest of 11 works at the distance. Later that day, LoPresti schooled Successful Dan in the paddock.
"I've tried to figure out why that happened and how it happened. I don't know," LoPresti said of the earlier paddock mishap. "Something spooked him, because he's never been that kind of horse."
The 4-year-old son of Awesome Again , runner-up by a neck to Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), won his seasonal debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in a Betfair Hollywood Park allowance race in June and was second by half a length to Kettle Corn in the July 27 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar last out. He enters the Woodward 4-for-8 lifetime, will be ridden by jockey Rafael Bejarano from post 5, and is 3-1 on the morning line.
Breaking from the 3 hole is 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned , who once again seeks redemption after a loss. Janis Whitham's 5-year-old homebred son of E Dubai was forwardly placed while Cross Traffic set the pace in the Whitney, but needed encouragement to keep pace and eventually fell back to finish fifth of eight.
Trainer Ian Wilkes hopes to use the Woodward as a steppingstone to a Classic defense. Last year, Fort Larned won the Whitney and bypassed the Woodward in favor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. gets the mount.
Mucho Macho Man was third in the Whitney, outkicked by Successful Dan for the place after mustering up a solid late burst. It was his first 2013 start in graded company and also his first outing in graded company since a second-place finish to Fort Larned by half a length in the Classic. He is still seeking his first win of the season after failing to finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic and running third in the June 14 Criminal Type Stakes at Belmont Park.
Last year, Mucho Macho Man was second in the Woodward by a hard-fought neck behind the since-retired To Honor and Serve. The multi-millionaire is a multiple grade II-winning son of Macho Uno who will be ridden from the 6 hole by Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado for trainer Kathy Ritvo.
Ron the Greek is one of two entrants from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who will also saddle Preston Stables' Flat Out in the Woodward.
Fourth in the Whitney and third in the June 15 Stephen Foster (gr. I) won by Fort Larned, the 6-year-old Florida-bred Full Mandate runner seeks his first grade I score of 2013 and his first victory since romping in the Jan. 19 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Winner of both the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and the Stephen Foster in 2012, Ron the Greek has had four starts since his Sunshine Millions win. He was fourth in this year's edition of the Santa Anita Handicap and third in the Charles Town Classic Stakes (gr. II) for Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, Jack Hammer, and Gary Barber. Javier Castellano rides from the inside.
Flat Out won the July 6 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont and also won the Westchester (gr. III) over Cross Traffic there earlier this year. He was third in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. I) and is a two-time winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, taking back-to-back editions in 2011 and 2012.
Flat Out skipped the Woodward last year, but was second by 1 1/4 lengths to 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in that season's renewal. Runner-up in the 2011 Whitney and third in the 2012 edition, he has yet to win at Saratoga. Junior Alvarado gets the mount from post 4 on the 7-year-old Florida-bred son of Flatter .
Godolphin Racing's 2012 Travers (gr. I) winner Alpha completes the field. Winless in 2013, Alpha was sixth in the Whitney and fourth in the Suburban for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The 4-year-old Bernardini colt leaves the far outside with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons.
$750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, approximate post 5:45p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1. Ron the Greek (FL), J. Castellano, W I Mott, 12-1
2. Successful Dan (KY), J.R. Leparoux, C LoPresti, 5-2
3. Fort Larned (KY), B.J. Hernandez, Jr., I R Wilkes, 4-1
4. Flat Out (FL), J. Alvarado, W I Mott, 7-2
5. Paynter (KY), R. Bejarano, B Baffert, 3-1
6. Mucho Macho Man (FL), E.S. Prado, K Ritvo, 6-1
7. Alpha (KY), J.R. Velazquez, K P McLaughlin, 15-1
All carry 126 pounds.