Setting a more relaxed pace than he did four weeks earlier in the Whitney (G1), Liam’s Map coasted to a 4 3/4-length victory Saturday in the $600,000 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga.
After ripping through a half-mile split in :46 and a sub-1:10 three-quarter fraction in the Whitney, Liam’s Map was ultimately caught in the final strides by Honor Code, the nation’s leading older dirt male in training. Without that rival in the lineup, Liam’s Map was made the 6-5 favorite in the Woodward and ran to those lofty expectations.
Guided by Javier Castellano, Liam’s Map broke on top and was not seriously challenged by the other major speed in the race, Bay of Plenty. Allowed to set splits of :23.69, :47.49 and 1:10.94, the flashy gray son of Unbridled’s Song had more than enough in the tank to extend his lead to the wire and completed 1 1/8 miles in a sharp 1:47.44 over a fast track.
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who had four of the eight Woodward starters, saw his Brooklyn (G2) winner Coach Inge rally for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of the Jimmy Jerkens-trained pair of Wicked Strong and Effinex, who were separated by a neck in that order.
“The Whitney was as tough a loss as you’ll experience,” Pletcher said. “He ran an unbelievable race that day and everything he indicated to us from that time until today was that he was ready to come back over and put forth another big effort. I’m just happy to see him get that Grade 1 that he deserves so much.”
Owned by Teresa Viola Racing Stables, Liam’s Map now has five wins and two seconds in seven lifetime starts. Besides the Woodward and Whitney, his only other foray into stakes resulted in a half-length triumph in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park last December.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), a race of 1 1/4 miles at Keeneland on October 31, is not necessarily the first race one would think of for a colt with such a high cruising speed. However, that race clearly remains an option for Liam’s Map. If able to produce a pace similar to the Woodward rather than the Whitney, perhaps he could last longer than expected.
However, with the likes of American Pharoah, Beholder, and Honor Code aiming for the Classic, a more practical option might be the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), which will be run around two turns.
Should Liam’s Map try the Classic, American Pharoah, who has taken the initiative in some of his recent appearances, would have a target to chase, and a very difficult one at that.
The final stakes on Saratoga’s Saturday program, the $200,000 Glens Falls (G3) for fillies and mares, was won by the Bill Mott-trained White Rose in stakes record time of 2:11.46 for 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf.
It was the 9-1 shot’s first stakes score since she took the $125,000 Dowager at Keeneland last October, and would be no surprise to see the gray defend her title in that 1 1/2-mile feature next month.
Liam’s Map photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.