08/30/2013 4:42PM

Steven Crist's Saratoga graded stakes analysis: Woodward


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A plausible case can be made for anyone (except maybe Alpha) in Saturday’s six-horse Woodward, a strong race that would have been even stronger had the last two Whitney winners, Cross Traffic and Fort Larned, not been withdrawn to await the Jockey Club Gold Cup in four weeks. In the absence of those two front-runners, the key to the Woodward may be staying close to what should be a mild pace that could work to the disadvantage of stretch-runners Flat Out, Ron the Greek, and Successful Dan.

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That leaves Paynter and Mucho Macho Man, and I think Mucho Macho Man will offer better value around 4-1 than Paynter at 2-1. I have no knocks on Paynter, an admirable horse with a strong following, but he made a cross-country trip for this and is coming off a subpar (for him) effort losing the San Diego Handicap. I wouldn’t leave him out of any multirace bets, but Mucho Macho Man will be twice the price, has been training here the entire meeting, and suggested he is rounding back to top form with a very good third in the Whitney. This will be just his third start since January, and he may be primed for his best effort of the season.

Mucho Macho Man is way overdue for his first Grade 1 victory. He was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he was probably best in last year’s Woodward, when he was carried out while beaten just a neck by To Honor and Serve.