While he's well known to those who follow speed figures, impressive Ghostzapper takes the national stage for the first time Saturday as the horse to beat in the $500,000 Woodward (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Quietly, the Stronach Stables-owned 4-year-old bay colt by Awesome Again
has been wowing the numbers guys in his two starts this year. But as the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 30 draw closer, the Bobby Frankel-trained Ghostzapper gets his first chance to break through on the grade I level in 2004.
He is coming off sensational efforts in the seven-furlong Tom Fool (gr. II) at Belmont July 4, which he won by 4 1/4-lengths, and in the 1 1/8-mile Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) Aug. 21, where he was nearly 11 length in front. The only question about Ghostzapper was his ability to handle two turns. But on a sloppy track at Monmouth, he won in a time of 1:47 3/5.
The nine-furlong Woodward (5:46 p.m. Eastern) is the finale of a 10-race live card that begins at 1 p.m.. It is also one of three grade I stakes races on the first Saturday card of the Belmont Park Fall Championship Meet. The $500,000 Man o'War at 1 3/8 miles on turf and the $250,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies at nine furlongs precedes it. The Man o'War and Woodward will be televised live on Fox Sports Net from 5 to 6 p.m. EDT.
"People don't realize how good he is," Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said. "I guess it's because he hasn't won the big races yet."
Ghostzapper has won six of eight career starts. Last year, he made eye-catching late moves to win the Vosburgh (gr. I), his only grade I win, and finish a close third in the King's Bishop (gr. I). This year, he has managed to stay close to the pace.
"He just did that himself," Frankel said. "He's got speed. It's just that when he gets in a big field, he doesn't like the dirt kicked back in his face. He's a good horse. He just wins and he wins easy."
He faced only three opponents in his other two races this year. This time he has seven rivals. All carry 126 pounds.
Ghostzapper is three-for-three at Belmont and is facing the shortest time between races – three weeks – in his career.
Javier Castellano has ridden Ghostzapper in his last six starts and remains aboard Saturday. Castellano closed out a strong Saratoga season on Monday, winning five races on the Labor Day card.
Todd Pletcher, who tied his Saratoga single-season record for most wins with 35 at the just-concluded meet, will start Sumaya Us Stable's Newfoundland and Team Valor's Colita in the Woodward.
Newfoundland missed by a neck to Peace Rules in a game Suburban (gr. I) performance at Belmont in July. The son of Storm Cat
comes off a seventh-place finish in the Whtney (gr. I) at Saratoga.
"He drew post nine and was about six-wide on both turns," Pletcher said of Newfoundland's Whitney. "I think when you break down the race, you had him, Peace Rules and Seattle Fitz drawing seven, eight and nine and they all got parked out there. It's hard to imagine all three of those horses not firing."
Colita recently finished second to Powerful Touch in a Spa allowance. Powerful Touch returned to win at Saratoga Monday.
"We'll take a shot with Colita," Pletcher said. "He's 3-for-3 at Belmont and a mile and an eighth is a good fit for him."
Saint Liam will make his first start since finishing third to Peace Rules in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) in April. The Saint Ballado colt almost beat Peace Rules in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), but lost by a head.
"He's doing really good," trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. "He had some quarter cracks. He's got really delicate feet, but he couldn't be doing any better now. I don't like running against Ghostzapper, but we've planned on this race for a while."4500,000 Woodward (gr. I), 3 & up, 1 1/8 miles
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Colita, Todd Pletcher, Richard Migliore, 126
2. Saint Liam, Richard Dutrow Jr., Edgar Prado, 126
3. Midway Road, Neil Howard, Robby Albarado, 126
4. Ghostzapper, Bobby Frankel, Javier Castellano, 126
5. Newfoundland, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 126
6. Seek Gold, Nick Zito, Cornelio Velasquez, 126
7. Bowman's Band, H. Allen Jerkens, Ramon Dominguez, 126
8. Presidentialaffair, Martin Ciresa, Pablo Fragoso, 126