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Three-time graded stakes winner Tacitus (Juddmonte Farms) has been Grade 1-placed on four occasions, and will seek his first triumph at such level when he faces a field of five competitors in the 67th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward Handicap going 1 ¼ miles at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, September 5.
Trainer Bill Mott's four Woodward victories is tied with fellow Hall of Famers Elliot Burch and Bobby Frankel. Mott will look to become the race's all-time leading conditioner in the prestigious race when saddling Tacitus, who boasts lifetime earnings of $2,817,500.
Mott has sent out Hall of Famer Cigar (1995-96), To Honor and Serve (2012) and Yoshida (2018) to victory in the Woodward.
Race 11 at Saratoga on Saturday, September 5 - Post 5:30 PM
|1||Math Wizard||12-1||Joel Rosario
|Saffie Joseph, Jr.|
|4||Global Campaign||5-2||Luis Saez
|5||Spinoff||3-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
The 4-year-old gray or roan son of prolific sire Tapit out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches was a runaway winner of the Grade 2 Suburban going the 1 ¼-mile distance on July 4 at Belmont Park. With Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, he tracked a leisurely pace, took command at the quarter pole and drew off by 8 ¾ lengths in a final time of 1:59.40. This was his first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on May 2 and marked his first victory since taking the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets in April 2019 at Aqueduct.
"He'll be a fresh horse going in," Mott said. "He had done a lot of travelling earlier in the year. The Oaklawn race could have been a mistake, but at least we came back and capitalized on the next race being the Suburban. Right after Oaklawn, we decided we would wait for it."
During his sophomore campaign last year, Tacitus won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby en route to his Wood Memorial score. He finished in the money in his remaining five starts during his 3-year-old season when elevated to third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby followed by runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga. He capped off his 2019 campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 28.
Mott said Tacitus has matured from age 3 to 4.
"His energy level has been good," Mott said. "Naturally, he's a more mature horse from last year, which is normal. He feels good early in the morning before he goes out and he gets geared up and anxious to go once he gets going. He's good to ride and he's easy enough on himself to where he can take care of himself."
Jockey Jose Ortiz, who piloted Tacitus to his two graded stakes wins last year, will return to the saddle from post 2.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will attempt to level up to even terms with Mott, Burch and Frankel in terms of Woodward victories when he saddles the formidable duo of Moretti and Spinoff.
Owned by Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Moretti arrives at the Woodward off a victory in the 1 ¾-mile Birdstone on August 2, which he won by 1 ½ lengths. Second in the Grade 2 Suburban to Tacitus, Moretti defeated allowance company at Oaklawn Park on May 2 at Oaklawn Park as the lukewarm favorite before winning his first stakes race in the Flat Out on June 11 over a sloppy main track at Belmont Park.
"There's limited opportunities of Grade 1s going a mile and a quarter, so we'll give him a chance to do that," said Pletcher, who sent out Woodward winners Lawyer Ron (2007), Quality Road (2010) and Liam's Map (2015).
Bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Farm, Moretti is by multiple champion producing stallion Medaglia d'Oro out of the Grade 1 winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, who also produced Grade 1 winner Battle of Midway. He was acquired for a lucrative $900,000 from the Gainesway consignment barn at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.
Jockey Jose Lezcano will have the mount from post 3.
Pletcher also will send out Wertheimer and Frere's Spinoff, a newly minted stakes winner who took the Alydar on August 9 at the Spa where he registered a career-best 99 Beyer.
The homebred son of Hard Spun out of Grade 1-winner Zaftig was previously stakes-place three times, including a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in 2018. During his sophomore season, Spinoff was a close second to By My Standards in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds en route to off-the-board placings in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. He capped off his 3-year-old season with a decisive 5 ¾-length victory against winners last August at Saratoga defeating graded stakes winners Lone Sailor, Cairo Cat and Control Group exactly one year prior to his last out win.
"Spinoff seems to like Saratoga a lot," Pletcher said. "He's shown us hints along the way that he has potential for that breakthrough performance I thought the Alydar was arguably his strongest race. He's 2-for-2 around two turns here at Saratoga so that's encouraging as well. He's finally matured and putting it all together.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pilot Spinoff from post 5.
Global Campaign (Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm) will attempt to replicate his winning ways from the last out Grade 3 Monmouth Cup when making his Grade 1 debut in the Woodward for trainer Stanley Hough.
The well-bred Curlin colt was a determined winner of his last effort, where he controlled a moderate pace throughout, lost the lead at the furlong marker to last year's Woodward runner-up Bal Harbour, but re rallied along the rail to get the victory by 1 ½-lengths over fast-closing Woodward-rival Math Wizard.
A consistent five-time winner of eight starts, Global Campaign won his first two races which took place at Gulfstream Park before making the grade in the Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont Park last May over eventual Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston. In his only start at Saratoga, Global Campaign was third in last year's Grade 2 Jim Dandy.
Bred in Kentucky by co-owner WinStar Farm, Global Campaign is out of the A.P. Indy mare Globe Trot, making him a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Bolt d'Oro.
Leaving from post 4, Global Campaign will be piloted by Luis Saez.
Following a well-beaten fifth in last Friday's Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, Math Wizard will seek to make amends while attempting his second Grade 1 victory for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Owned by John Fanelli, Khalid Mishref, Cash Is King Racing, LC Racing, Collarmele Vitelli Stable, Ioannis Zoumas and Bassett Stables, Math Wizard was a deep-closing winner of last year's Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx in his only graded staeks victory to date. The chestnut son of Algorithms owns three others placings against graded stakes company, where he was third in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby last July and second in both the Grade 3 Ohio Derby last June and Grade 3 Monmouth Cup in July.
Jockey Joel Rosario, who guided Yoshida to a 2018 Woodward score, has the mount from post 1.
Rounding out the field is William L. Clifton, Jr.'s Prioritize, a winner on both dirt and turf.
Trained by Jimmy Bond, Prioritize began his career on grass, where he was a first out winner over the Gulfstream Park green in April 2018 before third-place finishes against stakes company on the NYRA circuit in the Better Talk Now at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont Park, where he was beaten by a length both times.
In his dirt debut, the son of two-time Grade 1 winner Tizway won for a $35,000 tag on December 20 at Aqueduct and defeated allowance company three starts later at Saratoga, where he defeated Grade 1 Kentucky Derby contender Money Moves.
Jockey Eric Cancel piloted Prioritize to his last two efforts and retains the mount from post 6.
The Woodward is slated as Race 11 on Saturday's action-packed 12-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles over the main track, the Grade 2, $200,000 Glens Falls for older fillies and mares over the inner turf at 1 3/8 miles, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Prioress for sophomore fillies at six furlongs. Saturday's program offers a first post of 11:45 a.m. Eastern.
The prestigious event for older horses honors William Woodward, the late owner of Bel Air Stud who campaigned father-son Triple Crown-winning pair of Gallant Fox and Omaha and was chairman of the Jockey Club from 1930-50. Since its inception in 1954, the Woodward has attracted high caliber horses such as all-time greats Kelso (1961-63), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1967), and Forego who won four consecutive runnings from 1974-77. For four straight years, the Woodward was championed by a winner of the Kentucky Derby with Seattle Slew (1978), Affirmed (1979), Spectacular Bid (1980) and Pleasant Colony (1981) all winning the prestigious event. More recent prominent winners of the Woodward include Mineshaft (2003), Ghostzapper (2004), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Gun Runner (2017) whose Woodward victories would help cement Horse of the Year honors in their respective years.
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