2016 Woodward Stakes Preview and the looming Armageddon in the Breeders’ Cup Classic

September 1st 2016

Horse racing is very much a “What have you done for me lately” sport. California Chrome and Arrogate have laid down gauntlet with great performances the past few weekends, raising the bar for the looming Armageddon this fall in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s the Met Mile record holder Frosted’s turn to impress us once more, to assure us that this is more than a two horse battle. Frosted is the 1/2 odds favorite in the upcoming Woodward Stakes this Saturday at Saratoga. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network between 4-5 PM CST.

Last month, Frosted won the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga by two lengths with a time of 1:47.77 (107 Beyer Speed Figure). It was a nice win but somewhat disappointing coming off his 123 Beyer Speed Figure and track record (1:32.73) that he set in the Metropolitan Mile (aka Met Mile) back in June.

The Woodward Stakes is the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th Mile) distance as The Whitney. For Frosted, any time higher than 1:47 flat on a dry, fast track should be viewed as a disappointment. I really think he needs to run in the mid 1:46 range to be still considered a huge threat to beat California Chrome and now Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The track record for the Whitney Stakes is 1:46.64 set in 2007 by Lawyer Ron. The Woodward Stakes track record is 1:45.80 and is shared by two horses: Forego (1976) and Dispersal (1990).

The Tapit gray colt’s biggest opponent in this race will be himself and time.

The Woodward Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday September 3rd – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network

Post Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Shaman Ghost (120) – Castellano/Jerkens – 12-1
2. Breaking Lucky (120) – Contrejas/Baker – 20-1    
3. Frosted (124) – Rosario/McLaughlin – 1-2  
4. Bradester (122) – Bravo/Kenneally – 6-1 
5. Catholic Cowboy (118) – Saez/Zito – 20-1
6. Samraat (118) – J.Ortiz/Violette – 10-1
7. Tale of Verve (118) – Velazquez/Stewart – 30-1
8. Tapin Mojo (118) – Franco/Chatterpaul – 50-1  
9. Mubtaahij (118) – I.Ortiz/McLaughlin- 5-1

My Prediction: Frosted draws a favorable inside post but has early speed next to him in Bradester. I don’t think this one will be close. The real battle will be for 2nd place between Bradester, Samraat and Mubtaahij. My projected order of finish: 1) Frosted, 2) Bradester, 3) Samraat, 4) Mubtaahij, 5) Shaman Ghost, 6) Tale of Verve, 8) Catholic Cowboy, 9) Tapin Mojo

Looming Armageddon at Breeders’ Cup Classic

Unless Frosted dazzle’s us in the Woodward, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic appears to be two horse show between California Chroma and Arrogate. One thing that I want to address is this willingness to discount Arrogate’s recent performance in the Travers Stakes. Sure, Arrogate could be a “flash in the pan,” never capable of replicating his awesome feat last Saturday where he set Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record with a time of 1:59.36 in a mile and a quarter race.

Don’t be so foolish enough to not believe Arrogate is a huge threat to California Chrome in the BCC. Arrogate drew the rail in the Travers. Yes, he had a near perfect trip. But remember that he had never raced further than 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile) and what I thought he would do, he didn’t. I thought he would have to get out into the lead early to avoid getting hemmed in along the rail and then he would tire and fade down the stretch in the final furlong.

Arrogate did exactly what I thought he would do early on (get off to a good start and take the lead early) but then he did something few horses can do. And that is run final quarter mile fraction that was almost as fast as the fast opening fraction he laid down. Arrogate’s opening quarter mile fraction was 23.61. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84!

Show me one horse still in active training that can run a final quarter-mile fraction that fast in a 10 furlong (1 1/4 mile) race. Guess what? You can’t. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. California Chrome’s best final fraction is 24.44 accomplished in the Pacific Classic a couple of weekends ago. Melatonin did a 24.27 in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita back in June. Beholder did a 24.65 in the 2015 Pacific Classic.

Arrogate may never be able to replicate his performance in the Travers Stakes, fair enough. But all he would have to do is be close and he may have the Breeders’ Classic field covered. I’m in the camp that it is easier to accomplish something you’ve accomplished before than to accomplish something you have never accomplished.