08/04/2013 1:39PM

Saratoga: Woodward likely to draw top horses from Whitney

Barbara D. Livingston
Cross Traffic, ridden by John Velazquez, won the Grade 1 Whitney by three-quarters of a length over Successful Dan at Saratoga on Saturday.

This content is part of a free preview of DRF Plus. Click to learn more.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Ian Wilkes, the trainer of beaten Whitney Invitational favorite Fort Larned, believes that if you ran the same horses back a month from now, there would be a different winner.

His theory may very well be put to the test in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Aug. 31.

Led by the victorious Cross Traffic, four of the top five finishers from Saturday’s Whitney are under strong consideration for the Woodward, according to their connections. Both the Whitney and Woodward are run at 1 1/8 miles.

Cross Traffic earned a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita by winning the Whitney by three-quarters of a length over Successful Dan. Trainer Todd Pletcher on Sunday said he would choose between the Woodward and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 28 for Cross Traffic’s next start, but he seemed to be leaning toward the Woodward.

“Considering how well he ran yesterday, having not run since the Met Mile [on May 27], you could argue that maybe your best shot at the Breeders’ Cup is to go in with a little more time, as opposed to running in the Jockey Club,” Pletcher said. “The key to that is how he bounces out of this race.”

DRF Plus Preview

Pletcher said Cross Traffic seemed fine Sunday morning following his front-running score in the Whitney, in which he covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89 and earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

The Whitney was Cross Traffic’s first start around two turns. He ran two exceptional one-turn, one-mile races, including a heart-breaking nose defeat in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. It remains to be seen if he’s better at two turns or one.

“He ran well yesterday,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think it’s a situation that that’s the only time he’ll run well going two turns. He’s a horse that’s versatile enough where he can probably run numerous distances.”

Despite falling down and unseating jockey Julien Leparoux while coming onto the track from the paddock, Successful Dan ran a terrific race to finish second in the Whitney. He made a wide bid, and his momentum was stunted briefly when Cross Traffic came out a few paths in deep stretch, forcing Mucho Macho Man and Successful Dan to also go out a path or two.

“I’m not disappointed; I’m very proud of him,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said of Successful Dan.

LoPresti said a win in the Whitney would have meant more to him than winning the Breeders’ Cup with Wise Dan last year “just because of everything we’ve been through with him. Last year, we had brought him up to run in this race, and we had to take him home a week before.”

Successful Dan had suffered a ligament strain prior to last year’s Whitney. Looking ahead, LoPresti said he would like to run back in the Woodward.

“I’m going to let the horse tell me, but there’s a good possibility he’ll run back there,” LoPresti said.

Mucho Macho Man, making just his third start of the year, made a menacing move approaching the quarter pole, then ran on evenly to finish third, his momentum also impeded late. His connections typically have spaced Mucho Macho Man’s races seven to 10 weeks apart, but trainer Kathy Ritvo said Sunday that the Woodward would be considered.

“We’ll see what we think works best for him, watch him for the next couple of days, see how he’s doing, how his energy level is,” Ritvo said. “I was happy with the way he was going into the race, and I’m happy with the way he is coming out of the race.”

Fort Larned, last year’s Whitney winner who finished fifth Saturday, simply ran a flat race, according to Wilkes. Fort Larned broke a half-step slowly, and that cost him the front-running position he wanted, according to Wilkes.

“If you had the same horses and ran them back again in four weeks, you’ll have a different winner,” Wilkes said. “If you run them in four weeks after that, you’ll have another different winner. You can’t make mistakes against these horses and beat them. It’s a tough division.”

Wilkes said that if Fort Larned “trains like I expect him to coming off this race, we’ll run in the Woodward.”

Ron the Greek, who finished fourth in the Whitney, is not expected back for the Woodward, but his stablemate, Flat Out, is being pointed to the race. In 2011, Flat Out finished second behind Havre de Grace in the Woodward.

The connections of Paynter, the winner of last year’s Haskell Invitational and the runner-up in this year’s San Diego Handicap, have expressed an interest to run in the Woodward as well.

Perl More than 1 year ago
Todd Pletcher batting at 34% for the meet with over 50% ITM. He is 26% winners circle on the season. A lot of people would argue that no trainer could possibly have that much success and be on the level. Not just sour grapes folks either. I've spoken to more than one terrific horseplayer who has been raising their eyebrows. Before I get called a sore loser, I'd like to point out that I play Pletcher horses all the time and I play against them all the time. The numbers just seem to good to be true. 34% in the most competitive meet in the country.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
This is horse racing. What if Paynter wins the Woodward? He might be the longest winded horse in that prospective field? Hit me with some logic. What if? What then? Chump or champ?
Mad Vaper More than 1 year ago
I think Paynters a dirt horse and if he's right bring him over. That synth junk at Del Mar is phony as a $3 biil and he could probably rate off a duel with CT and FL and get 1st move. He comes I think I'm on him
Scott More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting Division this year. I think Cross Traffic is a nice horse, but despite his nice win in the Whitney, I like others more including a couple that he beat in that race: Successful Dan (I thought he was a horse on the come quite a while back and then injuries seem to slow him down); Fort Larned (if he gets the lead, then he's proven time and again that he can go a LONG way with it) and Mucho Macho Man (He seems to need conditions to break just right for him, but I think they're on the right track to have him geeked to go in the BCC). I do hope that Paynter comes East to give us fans another nice Stakes race for a change. However, I don't think that I would ship him if I was his trainer. Keep him out West and well rested for the biggest race of the season in your own back yard. Still, as a fan, one can only hope.
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
Flat Out will be a dangerous horse if Fort Larned goes with Cross Traffic in the Woodward. Mucho Macho Man has eaten a lot of money over the last few years but none of mine. He hangs in the stretch every race and is a very average Grade I competitor. Mike Smith was able to something out of Drosselmeyer, one of the laziest horses ever. Last year, he couldn't even peddle MMM past To Honor and Serve. I think Baffert should bring Paynter to Saratoga but would understand the reasoning not to. Hard to ship when he had such an ordeal last year. Baffert shippers have had a tough time at Saratoga for years now. Paynter definitely likes dirt over Del Mar's poly though. Paynter might not be ready for what could draw as a really tough Woodward.
Scott More than 1 year ago
The Whitney has been the best field to date this year by far and it looks like the Woodward could be even better. I'm definitely looking forward to it. As for MMM, he does seem to flatten out in the stretch, but if you're planning on hitting the Trifecta, then you have to include him. While he has failed to score in the big one, would you be really surprised if he did win the BCC? The pace should be there and you know he will last the 10F's. Which brings us to Drosselmeyer: I don't think he was a lazy horse as much as a one dimensional horse. He was a classic grinder. Not terribly fast at any time, but capable of running at a steady pace all day (See the Belmont as a perfect example and I do think that the BCC victory was more a case of the field coming back to him too, but he really did look faster in the stretch than usual. Give Smith his due for sure. By the way - that was my biggest score ever that BCC. I hit the Trifecta 3 years in a row in the BCC, but that year I hit the .10 Superfecta as well (I'm a small change, so $5000+ on a $50 dollar race bet was HUGE for me). I still kicked myself, because the race unfolded almost exactly as I expected right down to Game on Dude being the only speed that lasted.
Big Bob More than 1 year ago
Baffert was definitely hoping all the big guns wouldn't commit to the Woodward.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
Remember when Rachel won the Woodward in 2009? Where would she finish against this group?
Wesley White More than 1 year ago
would depend on the post positions. If she broke outside she would win for fun, if inside again she wud get pressure and work hard down the lane.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Excellent point Wesley! RA never liked being on the inside. To everyone that suggested that she was an overrated miler: look at the Preakness and research how many horses won from Post 13 and then consider that Big Drama (I think I got his name right) forced her to stay wide the whole race (at least the 4 or 5 path all the way around). Not only did she win the Preakness easily she ran further than every other horse in the field. While she didn't seem to carry her form to her 4 year old season, she had what I consider (and most experts) the greatest 3 year old season by a filly ever.
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
I was there for that race and it was a great performance considering the fractions she had to run. If she had faced the field that MIGHT potentially run in the Woodward this year (Cross Traffic, Fort Larned, Flat Out, Mucho Macho Man, Successful Dan, Paynter), I think she's in the race anywhere from 1st to 3rd. She didn't need to be on the lead but I think Borel put her there in the Woodward because of the quality of the field. I will say though that of the field that is potentially drawing this year and Rachel Alexandra, she would be the most dangerous one of the bunch with a soft lead, even with Cross Traffic and Fort Larned in there. Anyway, doesn't really matter. Different horses, different scenarios, different years...
prose More than 1 year ago
She would handle this group just as well as she handled the other group. Rachael was no filly to mess with in the summer of '09. She went 147 flat in the Haskell; and what time did the 'brilliant' Verrazano do the race in this year? 150 and something? You do the math. And, yes, I know you're talking about these older horses not this years 3 yo crop, but if you watched the race prior to the Haskell that Rachael ran against fillies at Belmont, if Borel had let her roll full-out she would have beaten Secretariat's track record for 1 1/8 miles. None of these older handicap horses could even dream of doing that.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
Wow. Not the reaction I thought I'd get. In my opinion, she'd have a very tough time to even round out the Super. The Woodward in 2009 was a joke.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I think Baffert might decide that Paynter likes the Del Mar surface more than he thought.
Wesley White More than 1 year ago
the connections of paynter duck no one. If the horse is ready he will ship for the Woodward. @jazz3162 will verify that
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
So glad it's verifed and guaranteed. Love to see him in the Woodward.