Scully: Belmont at Aqueduct Spot Plays for Oct. 1

September 30th, 2023

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) moved Saturday’s card to Sunday due to heavy rainfall in the area, and the 11-race program features four graded events, including the 70th running of the $400,000 Woodward (G2).

Twenty winners of the Woodward have gone on to be named Horse of the Year, the 1 1/8-mile event has served as an important Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) prep in the past, but the race hasn’t carried the same prestige in recent years and was downgraded to Grade 2 status in 2023.

I like a horse at double-digit odds on the Woodward morning line and will share some other horses of interest at Aqueduct.

Race 5 – Gallant Bloom (G2)

#4 Beguine looks like the controlling speed in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom. She enters in good form, rolling to a stakes win at today’s distance at Laurel Park last out. And the four-year-old daughter of Gun Runner has shown an affinity for wet tracks, romping over a sloppy Belmont track in May. I will tab her on the front end with Dylan Davis.

Race 6 – Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1)

***NYRA has moved the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic from Sunday to Saturday, Oct. 7. 

Speed often plays well on soft turf, and a tepid early pace appears probable in the 1 1/2-mile Hirsch. Irad Ortiz takes over the mount on last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) runner-up, #3 Stone Age (6-1), and I give the four-year-old colt the edge on the front end.

Stone Age will his second start back from a layoff for new conditioner Chad Brown, and his main rivals are confirmed closers.

Race 7 – Woodward (G2)

I am not keen about the top three on the morning line – Charge It, Tyson, and Zandon. Algiers, who is pegged at 6-1 in the first start since a runner-up in March’s Dubai World Cup (G1), looks intriguing, but I will go with #2 Law Professor (12-1) in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward.

The five-year-old gelding has run his fastest races over wet tracks at Aqueduct, recording convincing wins in the Excelsior S. and Queen’s County S. earlier this season and an outstanding second to Life Is Good in last year’s Woodward. Unraced since mid-May, 

Law Professor returned from a similar freshening last fall with a stakes victory, and he figures to receive an up-close stalking trip on a projected moderate pace.