12/29/2010 2:57PM

Upgrade gets last chance with 3-year-olds in Woodchopper


For the connections of most of the 11 horses who will run Friday in the $60,000 Woodchopper at about a mile on turf at Fair Grounds, the race’s appeal is largely the same.

“It’s the last chance to run against straight 3-year-olds,” said trainer Chad Brown, who has sent Upgrade to New Orleans from south Florida.

Trainer Mark Frostad will start the undefeated Red Strike, whose two wins have come at Woodbine.

“It looked like a good spot to go in,” Frostad said. “Next year, he has to step up against the older boys.”

Upgrade defeated older rivals last out in a $50,000 starter allowance at Aqueduct on Nov. 19. He won the one-mile turf race by two lengths, with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 88. Upgrade’s effort came two races after he took a maiden special weight at Monmouth Park by a nose, in his sixth start. He will be making his stakes debut Friday.

“The horse just keeps getting better,” Brown said. “His last race at Aqueduct was a very good race. He earned a good number out of that race. He’s starting to grow into himself and is coming around.”

Upgrade won his maiden on the front end but came from 11 lengths off the pace to win at Aqueduct. He was bumped at the start of the race run over good turf and then was shuffled back.

“By the time the field organized itself down the backside, he found himself near the back,” Brown said. “It all worked out. He made a good run.

“We learned that he can sit back.”

Robby Albarado has the mount on Upgrade, a son of Saint Liam who races for Gary and Mary West Stables.

Red Strike will be making his two-turn debut after winning a maiden special weight at seven furlongs and a first-level allowance at a mile, both on turf.

“He’s done everything right,” Frostad said. “He’s shown speed, but he’s also not speed-crazy. He’ll settle.

“Hopefully, he’ll develop into a good horse. He’s out of a half-sister to Soaring Free, who made $2 million, so we have some high hopes for him.”

Soaring Free was Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2004. He raced for Sam-Son Farms, as does Red Strike, and also was trained by Frostad. Soaring Free and Red Strike are both sons of Smart Strike.

James Graham has the mount from post 9.