Secretariat

Woodward “Post” Script

Because we have begun a new series trying to find early Kentucky Derby sleepers, why not try to find Breeders’ Cup sleepers who will be huge odds at Del Mar on November 5th and 6th. We’ll start with a horse I’m not even sure will run. But let’s make a case for him anyway. ~ Steve Haskin

Woodward “Post” Script

By Steve Haskin

Once upon a time, not very long ago, two months to be exact, the Breeders’ Cup Classic looked as if it was going to be another unchallenged scamper to the lead for Knicks Go and a field of helpless opponents futilely chasing him. After all, who would want to try to match strides with this front-running powerhouse and sacrifice their own chances? When a horse runs fast and does it as effortlessly as Knicks Go does, you are fighting a losing battle trying to look him in the eye early.

Knicks Go’s illustrious stablemate, the do-it-all Essential Quality possesses excellent tactical speed and can be placed anywhere on the track, but trainer Brad Cox has no desire to see the two of them hook up early. So what could prevent the Classic from being another uneventful front-running victory by this year’s Whitney and Pegasus World Cup winner who has won his last seven two-turn races?

Well, things are not what they seemed two weeks ago, despite Knicks Go’s effortless victory in Saturday’s Lukas Classic against a field of overmatched opponents. The whole complexion of the Breeders’ Cup Classic began to change when the fast, game, and classy Hot Rod Charlie won the Pennsylvania Derby wire-to-wire in impressive fashion. Then this past weekend the rejuvenated Art Collector wired the Woodward Stakes field for his third consecutive stakes victory and Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit deviated from his gutsy, dramatic victories by crushing older horses on the front end in the Awesome Again Stakes, winning by five lengths. Just like that, the Classic was transformed from a solo act into a hotly contested affair, with four top-class horses whose best races have been on the lead. Two of those horses – Knicks Go and Art Collector – have never been a mile and a quarter.

Now we see the Classic with a contentious pace, with proven distance horses Essential Quality and the vastly improved Max Player tracking the leaders, along with the hard-hitting Maxfield, who needs to find the closing punch he had earlier in his career against less talented opponents.

So if that is the way the Classic is going to be run, what about a deep closer to take advantage of the prospective battle that will be waged up front?

Well, there is one, who will be a huge price and that is Dr Post, who finished a non-threatening third in the Woodward Stakes. But there is a catch. Not even his connections are convinced he belongs in the Classic, and trainer Todd Pletcher said on Sunday, “We’re not committed yet. We’ll probably wait a few weeks to decide.”

If they decide not to run then this column was for naught. But I’ll take a shot and try to make a case for him not only belonging in the field, but running a big race.

Let’s start with the Woodward and work backwards. On the surface this seems to be a decent, but uninspiring performance, even though he was beaten only 2 ½ lengths, and I stress the word “only.”

Having watched races at Belmont Park for over 50 years, I have seen so many come-from-behind horses go into that long sweeping turn four- or five-wide, and appear to make a threatening move only to fall apart in the stretch. You simply cannot go that wide into what I call the turn of no return and sustain your run all the way to the wire, unless you’re the immortal Forego, a giant of a horse with a gargantuan stride.

Dr Post not only went into the turn four-wide, made a threatening move, and was five-wide turning for home, he never changed leads, which can happen when you take that turn wide. Even Forego didn’t change leads at Belmont. And on top of that, Dr Post was herded in the final furlong by Maxfield. There was no way Dr Post was going to win, especially going a mile and an eighth, going that wide on that turn and staying on his left lead.

But he still was running strong in the final furlong following a swift :23 4/5 quarter and earned a 104 Beyer speed figure while running 27 feet farther than the winner, which pretty much makes up the 2 ½ lengths he was beaten.

Now let’s go two races back to the Pacific Classic. Another thing I have noticed over the years is the Eastern shippers have not had success running at Del Mar. Even Cigar’s 16-race winning streak ended in the Pacific Classic. Yes, Eastern shippers did win Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar, but that was because they were beating mostly other shippers.

Dr Post is a rare Eastern shipper who has already run at Del Mar, finishing third in the Pacific Classic, in which he got all the kinks out and made the necessary adjustments during the race. Now he is familiar with the track and any quirks it may present to first-time invaders.

In the Pacific Classic, he was was racing well off the pace and when Joel Rosario asked him for his run he went backwards so abruptly it even caught race caller Trevor Denman by surprise. “Dr Post is being ridden and Dr Post is not responding. Dr Post dropping back to last!”

But in a flash he suddenly took off way out in the middle of the track and began picking up horses. At the top of the stretch he was fanned 8-to-9 wide. Denman bellowed, “Dr Post is starting to wind up, but he’s given himself a tall order.” Still far back in seventh at the eighth pole he flew by four horses in a matter of seconds and was able to finish third, as Denman called, “Dr Post got going far far too late.” Despite being beaten 5 ¾ length he still ran a solid “1/2” on Thoro-Graph. With this race under his belt, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be more effective and more polished over the Del Mar track.

Finally we go back three races to the mile and an eighth Monmouth Cup, in which he rallied six-wide turning for home and drew off to a 1 ¼-length victory in 1:47 2/5, which was three-fifths of a second off Spend A Buck’s 36-year-old track record. Yes, Hot Rod Charlie ran the same time finishing first in the Haskell Invitational (actually 15 one-hundredths of a second faster), but Dr Post lost so much ground he was given a faster Thoro-Graph figure. In fact, Dr Post has run two negative Thoro-Graph figures (both negative-1 ½) in his last four starts prior to the Woodward, as well as the “1/2” in the Pacific Classic. It is expected he will get another negative number in the Woodward.

I am not implying that Dr Post is as talented as Knicks Go, Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, Art Collector and Medina Spirit, or even Maxfield and Max Player. He may not even be better than this own stablemate Happy Saver. But that doesn’t mean he is not capable of taking advantage of a contentious pace and closing strong, having already run a good race at Del Mar going a mile and a quarter, something the other shippers cannot claim. And most important, he likely will be no better than eighth or ninth choice.

So there you have a Breeders’ Cup Classic sleeper. Now, if they decide not to send him then I refer you to the closing line of the old Allan Sherman song from the ‘60s, “Muddah, Faddah kindly disregard this letter.”

Photos courtesy of Associated Press/Seth Wenig, Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photos, and Equi-photo


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146 Responses to “Woodward “Post” Script”

  1. Bill Dawson says:

    Soup and Sandwich is listed as a probable for the Perryville Stakes, at Keeneland, on 10-23.

  2. Hi Steve, Love the Sleeper columns, VERY informative as always. Keep it up! Any clue when my old pal Soup and Sandwich will race again? I see several works. Thanks, JB

  3. Mike Relva says:

    Pro “know it all” vet is fond of referring to Barry Irwin as a “loon”- more than once. Wondering how many times pro ever prevailed in Kentucky Derby? Sure! lol

    • pro vet says:

      Do you think i’m the only one who thinks this?……you don’t know huh?…….i know many people that say the same………point is…..he is the hay water oats guy…..but didnt know about LASIX not masking anything…..that was 25 years ago………..to not know that, is ridiculous….
      He constantly talks about cheating with no facts……

      You must think Colburn…….is a genius too?……he won the Derby……

  4. Steve Haskin says:

    Tomorrow in the blue space we have a first == links to two columns, both featuring the back stories of four stallions who fans attending the Secretariat Festival will visit on Saturday and Sunday. They are Catholic Boy and Vino Rosso (Saturday) and Curlin and Medaglia d’Oro (Sunday). I will also write about Street Sense as well in the Curlin story. On Tuesday the two stories will appear in the white space.

  5. Steve Haskin says:

    I have decided to do the Rattle N Roll column anyway next week going back to when I first saw him at Saratoga and then continue with the “Sleeper” series as it was originally intended. We wont mess up the timing anymore like we did with Rattle N Roll. I have a few in the bank already from this past weekend.

  6. EddieF says:

    Watched the replay of the Breeders’ Futurity a couple of times. Rattle made his big move on the turn pretty much all on his own. The eyes of Haskin were off the charts again! Several contenders had very little in the way of excuses and likely are not ones to be followed on the Derby trail: Stellar Tap, Kevin’s Folly, Great Escape, Don’t Wait Up. Was the outside post to blame for Classic Causeway’s 4 3/4 length loss? Probably not, but he deserves another chance. Runners to keep an eye on are Double Thunder, American Sanctuary, and Costa Terra. Yet will any of those horses become the type of runner that wins the Kentucky Derby on the front or stalking closely (as Jack Christopher and Corniche are now!).

    • Coldfacts says:

      Jack Christopher galloping action suggest he will find 10F extremely challenging. As for Corniche, the runner-up AP is likely to get the better of him at the KD distance.

      It’s early days yet and those that have won the major stakes are decent. But I am of the opinion a few from the under the radar group will emerge next spring. Our burden is to determine who it it’s likely to be for the sucker future wagers.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Eddie. I totally agree with you on American Sanctuary. Running last of 13 early I loved his big middle move, but had nowhere to go. Had to abruptly swing out and finished up strongly. I’ll be watching him. I do think the post hurt Classic Causeway. He really had to run hard after breaking to the outside to clear the field. I’ll give him a pass. BTW go watch the gutsy performance of Classic Moment in the 5th race. See how many horses he had to battle with. Opening quarter in :21 4/5, but watch him fight to the end. By Classic Empire Dam is a half-sister to Into Mischief and Beholder. and the horse that won, Strava looks like a good one.

      • EddieF says:

        American Sanctuary would be a great story, if he continues to progress, with a $47k purchase price, a young trainer, and female rider. Classic Moment was impressive, especially considering it was his debut. And Strava did something in mid-stretch that you don’t often see first timers do.

        • Ms Blacktype says:

          Steve, EddieF:

          Strava really impressed me, too. Looked like the jockey almost cost him the race, moving him around trying to find a way through. But he bulled ahead and won anyway, and in a 5 1/2 furlong sprint. Will be interested to see how the figures come back, although lately Beyer figs haven’t seemed to match visual performance very well. Just saw Jack Christopher’s Beyer for the Champagne was jumped 9 points to 102 (!)

          Steve, any enlightenment on JC’s Thoro-Graph fig for that race?

          • Steve Haskin says:

            Yes, he got a 4 1/2 which is excellent

          • EddieF says:

            BSFs are often unreliable — not only for the frequent “adjustments.” Excessively high and low figures can leave you scratching your head, and future performances usually confirm the inaccuracies. If they weren’t in the DRF, I doubt that many horseplayers would seek them out. But even the best speed figure is merely one of many handicapping tools.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          We’re on the same page with all three

      • Matthew W says:

        I bet American Sanctuary…they’d not expect to he 13th around the first bend, he waspinched back by the#8, I think…..He did run well for 4th.

  7. Coldfacts says:

    The declaration that the Derby Sleeper Series is done is grossly premature. Identifying Derby sleepers continues until the race is run.

    With the above stated I am licking my wounds after going all in on a Bill Mott trained colt in the last race at Keeneland on Saturday. I was fully aware of the risk of going all in on a colt the secured speed figures of 55 & 58 whilst finishing 6th and 8th in its two career starts. But I am a gambling man.

    Gilded Age is by Medaglia D’ Oro out of a Bernardini mare. He was purchase for $600,00. Normally I stay away from expensive, well bred youngsters as they rarely live up to expectation. They just tick too many boxes and amazingly too often, not the talent box.

    I am a big fan of Bill Mott and assumed that if he deemed wise to bring back a 2YO, 15 days after it finished 8th over 8 1/2F. He must have been confident it would run big. But the colt was only able to manage 5th. A third place finished would have reduced by losses as he was wagered across the board @16/1.

    Why highlight a colt that is nowhere near radar?

    Well, in addition to trying to analyzing Mott’s decision. I also took note of winners of the two MSW races in which Gilded Age finished 6th & 8th. Major General was the winner of the first. He was a next out winner of Iroquois. Rattle N Roll was the winner of the second. He was a next out winner of the Breeders Futurity. The colt has kept good company.

    But there is a more important reason for hifhlighting Gilded Age. His still very green and appears to be one that will improve with racing. From post 11 he broke outwards and surrendered a lot of lengths. Approaching the first turn from 7W position. He bumped and pushed even wider. He improved his position on the back stretch but was aging caught
    6W on the final turn. He had a strong gallop down whilst logging, but was never goin to get into contention with ground loss on both turns. To be only beaten 71/2L with such a trip is very encouraging

    He is a physically imposing colt with a fluent stride. He gives every impression that come spring, he will be ready to challenge the top dogs of the division. Some start out with less than stellar records. Who is Real Quiet?

  8. pro vet says:

    Yes……..wow……i liked both horses 1,2…….in that 2 yr old race…..steve does have a good eye……ive liked many horses he has mentioned…..havent looked at this 3rd one yet

  9. Ms Blacktype says:

    No need for this blog to be Twitter. We have your back, Steve. Keep the hits coming!

  10. Ms Blacktype says:

    Wha? Last two performances of Steve’s Sleepers CONFIRMS that the column should continue. I’m all over Zandon although I didn’t even see him run. He may win the Kentucky Derby! Kudos to you, Steve!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      He was going to be my third sleeper. I’ve already spoken to several people about him. But the timing of the columns is just too unpredictable. They have to be done soon after they race and sometimes, like this time, that doesnt work out, but I will be mentioning my sleepers in the comments here and on Facebook and then in Knocking on the Door once the rankings begin.