Fine Closing Weekend At Saratoga

A slew of fine graded races will help wrap up the sensational Saratoga meeting this weekend, led by a pair of Grade 1 races on Saturday.  Even without Whitney Handicap winner Cross Traffic in the lineup, the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward hardly lacks star appeal or story lines.

Virtually every member of the Woodward field will be out to prove one thing or another. For Fort Larned, the Woodward represents an opportunity to dismiss doubts that he has lost a step off a stellar 2012 campaign that culminated with a stirring win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Aside from his monster 6 1/4-length victory in the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, Fort Larned has looked lackluster this season, most recently offering no stretch punch when favored in his Whitney title defense earlier this month.

Multiple Grade 2 winners Successful Dan and Mucho Macho Man, both in search of their first top-level wins, are well acquainted with each other and with Fort Larned. The older half-brother of Horse of the Year Wise Dan, Successful Dan threw in a rare clunker behind Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster, but rebounded to finish a strong second in the Whitney, a performance that earned him 5-2 morning-line favoritism in the Woodward.

Paynter, to the welcome surprise of many, successfully fought off life-threatening bouts of colitis and laminitis to return to the track this season for Bob Baffert. Last year's Haskell Invitational winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up has made two starts this summer, easily taking a seven-furlong allowance at Hollywood and then finishing a close second in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. A strong performance Saturday could give Baffert, who also trains division leader Game On Dude, a solid one-two punch for November's Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Looking to rekindle past glories are longshots Ron the Greek and Alpha. Winner of the 2012 editions of the Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster, Ron the Greek's best finish in his past four starts was a a half-length third behind Game On Dude in the April 20 Charles Town Classic.

Alpha, unplaced in six starts dating to his dead-heat win in the 2012 Travers, seems up against it carrying level weights.

Also on Saturday is the $500,000 Forego S. (G1) for some of the top sprinters in the country will pit Justin Phillip and Fast Bullet against once another for a third time. The duo first met in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, with Justin Phillip finishing fifth, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Fast Bullet in sixth. That was actually Fast Bullet's first race of the year, and he would go on to take an optional claimer at Hollywood Park by 7 1/4 lengths on December 6.

The third season of Summer at Saratoga, a partnership between NBC and the New York Racing Association, wraps up Saturday with coverage of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego Stakes, and the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes (4 – 6 PM on NBC Sports Network)

Sunday will play host to a pair of graded races, led by the $500,000 Spinaway S. (G1). Trainer Todd Pletcher should have a big say in the outcome of this dash for juvenile fillies, with possibly three runners in this field. Stopchargingmaria was among the sharper maiden winners at the meeting and could be favored in this always tough field. The daughter of Tale of the Cat has big speed and could appreciate getting an extra furlong to work with today.

Sensational debut winner Sweet Whiskey could be her strongest foe and will be tough if she repeats her maiden tally. Schuylerville (G3) third Elena Strikes should also like the extra ground and we wouldn’t sleep on her in this spot. Adirondack (G2) queen Designer Legs has done little wrong to date and gives Dallas Stewart a live one in here. Speedy Schuylerville queen Bahnah and Kiaran McLaughlin’s sharp maiden winner Dancing House adds to the class of the field.

The $150,000 Saranac S. (G3) will also be held on Sunday.

Closing Monday will play host to two more graded races, with the $500,000 Hopeful (G1) the topper. The top pair from the Saratoga Special (G2); Corfu and Wired Bryan, will likely be joined by Special third Danza, the fleet Debt Ceiling, All in Blue, who was fourth in the Sanford (G2) last out, and Al Stall’s Twang.

Also on the Monday card is the $150,000 Glens Falls H. (G3).

The Woodward TV Coverage

The third season of Summer at Saratoga, a partnership between NBC and the New York Racing Association, wraps up Saturday with coverage of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego Stakes, and the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes (4 – 6 PM on NBC Sports Network).

Woodward Stakes Information

When: Saturday, August 31, 2013
Post Time: First post-time is 1:00pm ET.

Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Wagering

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will present a $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 every Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and a $1 Million All Graded Stakes Pick 4 on Travers Day, August 24.

Although NYRA offers daily Pick 4’s on races 2 - 5 and the final four races of the day, the $500,000 guarantee applies only to the Late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Saratoga Race Course. The Late Pick 4 is a 50 cent minimum wager in which the bettor must correctly pick the winners of the last four races on the card, usually beginning with race eight.

On Travers Day, August 24, the guarantee will rise to $1 million in conjunction with the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes. The Travers is supported by three additional graded events: the $500,000 Grade 1 Test, the $500,000 Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop, and the $250,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa. The Late Pick 4 is scheduled to begin with Race 9 on Travers Day.

Handicapping Saratoga with

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