Selections for $750,000 Woodward (G1)

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By Frank R. Scatoni, editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.

THE RACE $750,000 Woodward (G1) Saratoga Race 10 (Saturday, September 1, 2012: post time: 5:45 p.m./ET; 2:45 p.m./PT) 1-1/8 miles on the main track (3-year-olds & upward) Several of the big guns in the handicap division are entered in this year’s 59th running of the $750,000 Woodward (G1), which means this race should have some serious Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) implications. Contested at 9-furlongs on the main track, this race should nicely set up the winner for a big fall campaign. #1 RULE has always hinted at stardom, but he’s spent most of his career underperforming on the big stage. Two back, he won the Monmouth Cup (G2) in impressive fashion, but he followed that up with a very poor performance in the Whitney (G1). Perhaps the jock switch to Ramon Dominguez will shake him up, but he’s going to need his very best—which isn’t out of the question—to beat the best in here. He’s usable in the exotics. #2 GOURMET DINNER is another one that won at Monmouth two back, but his last race in the Philip H. Iselin (G3)—also at Monmouth—showed that he has a lot to do when it comes to running with the big dogs. Optimists will point to the fact that he beat TO HONOR AND SERVE last year as a 3-year-old, but realists will say that he’s in over his head today. #3 MUCHO MACHO MAN is such a cool racehorse. He danced all of the dances in last year’s Triple Crown, and he’s been nothing short of spectacular since turning four. He has a career record of six wins in sixteen tries, and he’s only finished out-of-the-money three times. His victory in the Suburban (G2) at Belmont in July was awesome, and he enters today’s race at the top of his game. He’s the one to beat. #4 TRICKMEISTER had no tricks up his sleeve when easily handled by MUCHO MACHO MAN two back in the Suburban (G2). He followed that up with a poor fifth-place finish in the Whitney (G1) when he had a perfect tracking trip and then failed to respond when the real running started. His trainer, Rick Dutrow, is always capable of pulling off a major upset, but this guy needs to find 5-1/2 lengths to better the “Macho Man” in here. #5 STAY THIRSTY should be pretty hungry for victory after a very weak effort in the Suburban (G2), where he was under the whip by the three-eighths pole. He is capable of running some big races, however, and he returns to Saratoga—the place of his two greatest triumphs. Last year’s Travers (G1) winner has yet to threaten against top elders, but I do expect him to fire his very best today. Will it be good enough? Hmmm… #6 TO HONOR AND SERVE has been an epic money-burner of late, going down in flames at 7/5 in the Suburban (G2) and 8/5 in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) with seemingly no excuses. He’s certainly capable of running a monster race against top competition—as his smashing Cigar Mile (G1) victory proved—and I wouldn’t be surprised if trainer Bill Mott has him ready to run back to his winning ways today. #7 CEASE has spent his career running in lesser stakes races, but I like the confidence his connections show by running him in a Grade One today. He’s coming off a very professional win in a third-level allowance race, and that victory made him a perfect 3-for-3 over this track. He’s making the second start of his form cycle, and another step forward is certainly not out of the question. The big question, however, is: is he good enough? I doubt he is for the top slot, but he’s usable underneath at a big number. SELECTIONS 1. #3 MUCHO MACHO MAN – All this guy does is fire. 2. #6 TO HONOR AND SERVE – Owes the public (and me) a lot of money. 3. #5 STAY THIRSTY – Must prove he belongs outside of his generation. LONG SHOT VALUE PLAY: #7 CEASE – Horse-for-course looks to make it 4-for-4 at the Spa. WAGERING STRATEGY I don’t see much value in the exactas with the top three, so let’s try to catch a price in our trifecta by using #3 MUCHO MACHO MAN and #6 TO HONOR AND SERVE on top with ALL in the middle and two price horses in #1 RULE and #7 CEASE in third ($5 trifecta: 3,6 with ALL with 1,7). BANKROLL PLAY $25 win/place #3 MUCHO MACHO MAN (Bankroll at +$573.25 after Week Forty-Five Based on $50 Wagers)

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