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Quality Road and John Velazquez returns after winning the Woodward.
There were two Grade 1 races on the final Saturday of the 2010 Saratoga meeting. The 21,242 on hand enjoyed relatively cool weather with temperatures in the lower 70's. Light rainshowers fell early in the card but cleared in time for the stakes races. The highlight race on the card was the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) for older horses going 1 1/8 miles. It is the major prep for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park and ultimately the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. Donn (G1) and Metropolitan (G1) winner Quality Road was sent off as the 3-10 favorite in the field of 7 off a close second in the Whitney (G1) last out. In to challenge him included 5-1 second choice Convocation, winner of an allowance on August 4 after finishing second in the Suburban (G1), and 10-1 third choice Mine That Bird, winless since the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1) and a distant 5th in the Whitney last out.
Quality Road draws away in the stretch.
28-1 Arcodoro on the rail and favorite Quality Road to his outside battled for the early lead for the first 1/2 mile through fractions of 24.06 and 47.76 over the officially fast track, while 12-1 Mythical Power stalked the pacesetters another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. On the far turn, Quality Road took over the lead from the tiring Arcodoro, getting 3/4 in 1:11.52. Mythical Power gave chase into the stretch but Quality Road drew off under minimal urging from jockey John Velazquez, getting the mile in 1:36.66 and opening up to a 4 3/4 length victory in 1:50.00. It was just 1/2 a length back from Mythical Power to late-running 19-1 Tranquil Manner third.
Also on the card was the Forego Stakes (G1) won by Here Comes Ben.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Quality Road Velazquez 2.60 2.10 2.10 7 Mythical Power Gomez 5.90 4.40 6 Tranquil Manner Garcia 4.80 Winning Time: 1:50.00 $2 Exacta 3-7 14.00 $2 Trifecta 3-7-6 94.00 $2 Superfecta 3-7-6-1 164.40
Left: Quality Road in the winner's circle. His trainer Todd Pletcher said, , "That was Plan A. (Arcodoro) showed enough pace that we were able to maneuver outside him and get the trip we wanted. I thought he ran a good race. I certainly think we can make a strong argument for (having the best horse in the country). He's accomplished a lot this year with the Donn, the Met Mile, and this race. He's certainly put himself in a position, if he wins the next one. Right now, the plan all year has been to run in these races. He got beat a short head in the last one but I think he redeemed himself today on a track that did not appear to be playing very fast."
Right: Quality Road heads out to the track. His jockey John Velazquez said, , "He was much better than last time. In the Whitney I was struggling to get him going. But today he was much more willing and much more on the bridle. It was better for him to have a horse [Arcodoro] to follow. It made him much more competitive. And then down the lane I just wanted to keep him focused, because once he gets to the lead sometimes he gets lazy. I guess he's older and smarter because he thinks he's done once he gets to the lead. But overall, he did it well."
Left: Quality Road heads into the winner's circle.
Right: The trophy presentation for the Woodward with trainer Todd Pletcher on the far right. Pletcher said, "We have tremendous respect for Zenyatta but we don't expect to show up in the Breeders' Cup Classic and have it be an easy field. That's what championship events are about. This is the race we expected. He's proven before he's a top class horse and he proved it again today. It went exactly like we talked about in the paddock. I have total confidence in John if he needed to call an audible, he's always got that backing from me. But it's nice when Plan A works. We'll see how he comes out of it. The plan all along has been to go from here to the Breeders' Cup Classic. We'll have his next to last work at Belmont Park, and his final work at Churchill, so we'll probably go to Churchill Downs 12 or 13 days out. These situations, anything less than a win is unacceptable. Anytime you're in that situation, you're going to be relieved."
Left: Second place finisher Mythical Power in the paddock. His jockey Garrett Gomez said, "(Baffert) wanted him forwardly placed and I just didn't know how fast Quality Road was actually going to try to go. I was just trying to get in touch with this horse and feel it as I went. He ran a really good race. It was an outstanding race; really. This horse hasn't faced this kind of quality field and he showed he's got the ability to run with these horses and he ran a tremendous race. I'm absolutely proud of him."
Right: Third place finisher Tranquil Manner returns after the race. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "We were really just trying to be second or third and we're happy because Darley owns the mare and the sisters and it's great for the family to have a Grade 1 brother or relative. So we're happy that we were third and almost got up for second. Quality Road is just a great horse." His jockey Alan Garcia added, "He had a good trip. He can make one, huge run, and he was almost up for second. In a big race, if you aren't going to win, you can finish second or third, and he almost got there for second."
Here Comes Ben rallies on the outside in the stretch
Jockey John Velazquez sent 24-1 Checklist to the front exiting the chute and he set fractions of 22.55 and 45.29 while being pressed to his outside by Big Drama and Vineyard Haven in the pocket. On the turn, Checklist tired badly and faded to last, allowing Big Drama to inherit the lead into the stretch, through 3/4 in 1:09.50. 10-1 Her Comes Ben, 7th early, went 3 wide into the stretch and closed with a rush to pass Big Drama in the final strides, getting the 3/4 length victory in 1:22.50 over the fast track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to favorite Vineyard Haven third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Here Comes Ben Solis 21.80 8.50 3.70 3 Big Drama Coa 6.70 3.30 1 Vineyard Haven Garcia 2.20 Winning Time: 1:22.50 $2 Exacta 4-3 114.50 $2 Trifecta 4-3-1 382.00
Left: Here Comes Ben in the winner's circle. His trainer Charles Lopresti said, "He broke his maiden in a one-turn mile at Churchill, so he can get a little more distance. There won't be many 7 furlong races for him, so we're going to have to make decision. I was a little intimidated coming up here because I've never run in a Grade 1 before, but I knew had the numbers and Alex has been telling me all along he's a really good horse. We brought him up here two weeks ago and he trained really well and did everything right. We had to see if he was this kind of horse, and he proved it today."
Right: Here Comes Ben in the post parade. His jockey Alex Solis said, "I had a great break. He broke very relaxed. I had hoped I'd be laying fourth, fifth or sixth but he was more relaxed than I thought he would be. When we got to the 1/2 mile pole I asked him and we started marching and at the 1/4 pole when I really got after him we started coming and he did his thing. [The Forego] is one of the reasons I came here because I've ridden this horse at Churchill Downs. The first time I rode him I thought that he could be a Breeders' Cup horse."
Left: Second place finisher favorite Big Drama heads out to the track. His trainer David Fawkes said, "Eibar did a great job keeping (Vineyard Haven) down on the rail, so he had to use our horse a little to do that. But overall I am very, very happy with our horse. We'll take him home for a little while, see how he is, and then point him towards the Breeder's Cup." Jockey Eibar Coa added, "He ran big. I really can't complain about it. I had a good trip. I'm very happy with the way he ran."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten Vineyard Haven in the post parade. His trainer Saeed bin Suroor said, "He was traveling well and in a good position all the way. It was a pretty easy race for him today, but he got beaten. We'll take him home, check him out and then look for another Grade 1 for him." Jockey Alan Garcia added, "I was stuck on the inside and I didn't have a chance to go out and make a run. When I got the chance, I didn't have the horse."
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