The Woodward (Grade 1)- $400.000 Purse
AQU- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
September 30, 2023
A strong field of nine will be headed to the starting gate for what is listed by the game as being just the sixth running of the Grade 1 Woodward. The race debut in 2005, but supposedly took a long hiatus between 2006 and 2020 before reappearing in 2021 to be won by Splash Mountain. Of course, that is because the game associates all of the editions of the race that were held at SAR under a different “stake ID”, so you won’t see the likes of Tactical (2019), Atomic Twister (2017), or A One (2016) on the current list of stake winners. That’s a shame, because if we could have these stakes properly merged, it would be a “who’s who” of great horses that we have seen in our virtual world. I’ve tried to get them to merge stakes where the history was split like this one to no avail and may have previously even brought the Woodward to their attention. For full disclosure, it was a handicap in those years, but that hasn’t led to other races being split in the same way in regard to their history. Anyway, look up stake ID #1020 if you want to see the rest of that history. In 2022, The Woodward was won by Charleys Latte and Fractious for what would be his final career win. Whoever wins race will certainly be amongst a great list of winners, even if it is the “shorter list”. Here’s the field!
#1- Dragons Teeth (Alydar Stables, ridden by D Davis)- After running on the grass, and having success with it, Dragons Teeth made his way to CT for the Grade 2 CT Classic, and ended up finishing fifth while missing by a length. Going back deeper in his career, you will find other graded stakes but in those he was a non-factor. This is where Dragons Teeth is in his career. He’s a nice horse, who’s had some very good moments, but when the trainer has hoped for more, the gelding has not been able to step up. The CT Classic was better though, so perhaps he can build on that.
#2- Anna Da Artist (Smokey Stover, ridden by D E Centeno)- Almost identical to Individuation in one way. Individuation has a career record of (19-10-4-1), where Anna Da Artist is (19-10-4-0). Of course, the other one has won bigger races, but Anna Da Artist is closing in on $1,000.000 in earnings himself. And sorry, I always want to call this horse “she” when I get him but caught myself this time. Ran very well at the bullring last month, running second in the CT Classic, and prior to that, he won the MTH Cup. Both him and Individuation are running on Saturday. Maybe they’ll each go 11-for-20 for their career.
#3- Sunset Wolf (Night Rider Stables, ridden by F Geroux)- At the beginning of the month, Sunset Wolf ran ten furlongs at SAR for the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup and ended up running second. The only other time he hit the board this year was his win in the $175.000 Knicks Go, which was a competitive race at CD in May. He hasn’t been fully consistent this year, so whether or not he can follow up the JC Gold Cup here with another strong run may be up for some debate. His works are steady, so perhaps there are other reasons for the subpar outings. I trust him to run well, but this is a good field.
#4- Dayton (Pan Farms, ridden by I Castillo)- It’s been reported that Dayton was in the Travers, though you probably never noticed him, as he struggled in the slop. That dud came on the heels of finishing third in the Haskell, so maybe we can just dismiss the Travers for the wet track. But then, there’s the race before that, the Grade 1 Stephens at BEL where he was also poor and that was on a fast track. Overall, Dayton is still pretty lightly raced, and he works very well. He’ll need to get more consistency on the track for me to pick him, however.
#5- Sensei (Mb Stables, ridden by Ru Silvera)- After finishing fifth in the BC Classic last year, Sensei has gone on to win twice in seven starts as a five-year-old. Those victories came consecutively, winning the Grade 3 Westchester at BEL in May, and then staying there to win the Grade 2 Brooklyn a month later. He’s been very good at that NYRA track, but now will be running at the Big A for the first time in his career. We know one thing: he’ll be glad that it’s on the main track, since his last outing on the grass did not go well.
#6- Burnin Red Hooves (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by A Beschizza)- Focusing on the positive to start, let’s look at his race three back, in the $100.000 Thors Echo Stakes at SA for CA-Breds. It was a strong effort that seemed to get him back to the form he showed as a four-year-old. But then, things have gone downhill, with two finishes in the double digits. Despite that, the argument will be made that he was still about two lengths off the winner in each of them. In those, he started from post #6 in each, so it’s a good thing that he won’t be… Wait, never mind. He won from post 6 in September 2022. It’s September 2023. Let’s get him back to the 2022 version of himself!
#7- Electric (Angelos Stable, ridden by S Elliott)- For a horse that’s closing in on $1,000.000 in career earnings, this is a name that I am not really familiar with. Perhaps, it’s my memory, or maybe I am just not getting his races! Nonetheless, he’s a long-time veteran, having made 36 career starts and is looking for his tenth win. He’s mainly been a sprinter, and he did win the Grade 3 Bold Ruler here last year. Last month, he had no problem in the slop at SAR in winning the Grade 1 Forego. His races at a mile or more are not what stands out, as since February 2022, he’s only done so once. Did win the $200.000 ELP Derby in 2021.
#8- Spankersville (The Sidley Stud, ridden by A Jimenez)- This is a horse that everyone will need to be keeping an eye on in the late stages. He comes out of the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup, where he was seven lengths back after six furlongs and rallied to score the win! That’s not the only time he has won a race like that either, as you can look back at his effort in the Grade 2 Brooklyn at BEL in June where he was ten lengths out and won! Anyone who thinks closers can’t win races in our virtual world needs to take a long hard look at Spankersville. Is nine furlongs long enough for him, though? This is the shortest race he has been in since April 2022. Looking forward to watching him run!
#9- Ey Mon (Arindel, ridden by E Jaramillo)- The highest earner in the field, with over $1,800.000 to his credit over his 21-race career. He’ll be known most for finishing second and then winning the Queens Plate last year, but he has had a productive four-year-old season as well, running off a three-race win streak over the spring that was highlighted by the Grade 3 PIM Special. Afterwards, he hit the board in both the Grade 2 Suburban and the Pacific Classic but struggled quite a bit in the Whitney. I’m not at all worried about that one and would be surprised if Ey Mon did not cash a check here.