Woodward Stakes Preview – The Return of Liam’s Map

Photo: Natalie Fawkes, Gulfstream Park

Another good race coming this Saturday, September 5th at 4:47 PM CST, the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/8 mile race carries a $600,000 purse and will be shown on NBC Sports. It has two of my top 14 Breeders’ Cup contenders (Liam’s Map and Effinex). Two other good horses, Wicked Strong and Coach Inge, should make this a very interesting race.

Liam’s Map is the deserved favorite but Coach Inge is a horse to watch out for at this distance. He led the Surburban Handicap after 9 furlongs (1 1/8 mile) shown below. He should give Liam’s Map a run for his money. He is well rested and was a healthy scratch from the Whitney Handicap. He has finished in the Top 3 in all five races he has competed in this year.

Coach Inge won the race previous to the Suburban Handicap–the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap (video shown below) where he displayed a fighting spirit and willingness to battle. When he was given 15/1 morning line odds in the Whitney Handicap (before being scratched), I thought those odds were too long.

Effinex is a great horse but I like him better at the 1 1/4 mile distance. Commanding Curve has never really did much after his 2nd place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Protonico has won his last two starts but hasn’t raced since May 1st. Bay of Plenty beat Mylute in the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga on August 9th at this same 1 1/8 mile distance.

Below are the 2015 Woodward Stakes Post Positions. Jockey/Trainer & Morning Line Odds:

1 Wicked Strong – Saez/Jerkens – 5/1
2 Liam’s Map – Castellano/Pletcher – 6/5
3 Commanding Curve – Bridgmohan/Stewart – 30/1
4 Bay of Plenty – Rosario/McLaughlin – 10/1
5 Mylute – Ortiz, Jr./Pletcher – 15/1
6 Coach Inge – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1
7 Effinex – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4/1
8 Protonico – Ortiz/Pletcher – 12/1

I see this race with Liam’s Map and Coach Inge jumping out into the early lead and trying to stave off late chargers Effinex and Wicked Strong down the stretch. Liam’s Map won’t have any horse in this race with the closing speed of Honor Code as he did in the Whitney Handicap. If this were a 1 1/4 mile race, I would pick Effinex as the race winner.

So my projected order of finish: 1) Liam’s Map, 2) Coach Inge, 3) Effinex, 4) Wicked Strong, 5) Bay of Plenty, 6) Protonico, 7) Commanding Curve, 8) Mylute

Overall, I don’t think this is a good betting race for high payout trifecta or superfectas. So I would recommend placing big exacta bets. Probably the safer way to go would be a 2,6,7 Exacta Box with 3 horses. A $1 Exacta Box with 3 horses would cost $6, so a $10 one would cost $60.