09/03/2016 7:40PM

Shaman Ghost justifies decision to run in Woodward

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Barbara D. Livingston
Shaman Ghost (1), under Javier Castellano, splits horses in deep stretch and outlasts Mubtaahij to the wire to win the Woodward by a head.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Jimmy Jerkens didn’t want to run Shaman Ghost in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga. Owner Frank Stronach didn’t like the alternative.

So, Jerkens followed his owner’s lead and then took a page out of his late father’s playbook as Shaman Ghost upset heavily favored Frosted in the $600,000 Woodward at Saratoga.

Shaman Ghost, under Javier Castellano, split horses in deep stretch and outlasted Mubtaahij to the wire to win the Woodward by a head. It was another head back to Frosted, the 2-5 favorite, who had to come eight wide in the stretch.

Frosted got third by a head over Breaking Lucky, who was 7 1/4 lengths clear of Tapin Mojo. He was followed, in order, by Catholic Cowboy, Tale of Verve, Bradester, and Samraat.

In 1973, Jimmy’s father, the Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, won the Woodward - then held at Belmont Park - with Prove Out, beating Triple Crown winner Secretariat, the 2-5 favorite.

“I grew up watching my dad run in all these races when I was a little kid and how important it was - the Brooklyn, the Suburban, the Woodward - because we were New York people and [in] New York racing all our lives,” Jerkens said. “It’s what we want.”

Shaman Ghost won the Brooklyn by 4 1/4 lengths on June 11 but ran fifth in the Grade 2 Suburban. He came out of the race with a cough and his subsequent training was interrupted by inclement weather. Thus, Jerkens initially wanted to wait until next Saturday’s $100,000 Seattle Slew Stakes at Belmont Park to use as a prep for the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Oct. 8.

Jerkens said Stronach “wasn’t crazy about the idea.”

The Woodward meant taking on Frosted, who was coming off dynamic victories in both the Metropolitan Handicap in June and the Whitney in August.

Jerkens hoped that those two races may have taken a toll on Frosted.

“His last two races were through the roof. They just don’t duplicate it all the time,” Jerkens said. “I was kind of surprised he ran in here.”

Frosted had shown speed winning the Whitney in front-running fashion. Saturday, he broke awkwardly under Joel Rosario and brushed the side of the gate. He was sixth early as Bradester went to the lead under Joe Bravo and set modest fractions of 24.38 seconds for the quarter-mile, 48.43 for the half, and 1:11.97 for six furlongs while being kept in the No. 3 path. He was being chased by Breaking Lucky and Samraat.

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Shaman Ghost was a relatively close-up fourth, while Frosted raced in sixth position about six lengths off the pace.

Entering the far turn, Shaman Ghost, Samraat, and Frosted launched their bids. But with Bradester in the No. 4 path and Breaking Lucky off his flank in the No. 5  path, Shaman Ghost, Samraat, and Frosted had to come six, seven, and eight wide.

Meanwhile, Mubtaahij, who raced in seventh under Irad Ortiz Jr., was able to save some ground around the turn and entering the stretch.  He made a bid for the lead at the eighth pole inside of Shaman Ghost, who was splitting horses, Breaking Lucky, who was persevering, and Frosted, who was still under a hand ride.

Little separated that quartet from the sixteenth pole to the wire, but Shaman Ghost was able get up over Mubtaahij, Frosted, and Breaking Lucky.

“I almost decided to go around the horses but when I see Frosted he went out wide, I thought the only chance I could beat him was cut the corner, split horses, and go from there,” Castellano said.

Shaman Ghost, last year’s Queens Plate winner and a son of Ghostzapper, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.92 and returned $20 to win.

Rosario never went to the whip on Frosted, but he explained that in previous rides on the horse he didn’t respond well to being hit.

“Every time I rode him, when you hit him with the whip he don’t like that too much,” Rosario said. “When I’m turning for home I thought we were going to be home free and at the eighth pole I thought we were okay. Just the last 20 yards he hung a little today.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Frosted, said the trip probably cost his horse.

“I thought we were going to get there, but the horse was very wide and the fractions weren’t very fast,” McLaughlin said. “He just didn’t have his ‘A’ game today.”

McLaughlin said it was too early to say what the future holds for Frosted, who has already secured fees-paid berths into the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Frosted is winless in three tries at 1 1/4 miles.

McLaughlin is also the trainer of Mubtaahij, who despite breaking from the outside post had a good trip in comparison to his rivals, but couldn’t match strides with Shaman Ghost late.

“Mubtaahij ran great, post position hurt him,” McLaughlin said.

It is likely that Shaman Ghost and Mubtaahij will meet again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.