Next weekend promises to be a “Grade 1 Grand Finale” to the 2008 Saratoga season with three other Grade 1 stakes carded along with the half-million dollar, mile-and-an-eighth Woodward.
The most notable Hall of Fame horse to lose the Woodward was the great Secretariat, who, for the second time in his sterling three-year-old season, lost to an Allen Jerkens trained horse, this time Prove Out.
In recent runnings Mineshaft (2003), Ghostzapper (2004) and Saint Liam (2005) would all win the Woodward en route to Horse of the Year honors.
Along with all the marquee horses to win the Woodward are great jockeys and trainers, as well. A brief list of winning trainers includes Eddie Neloy, Frank Whiteley Jr, Elliott Burch, the aforementioned Allen Jerkens, Laz Barrera, D. Wayne Lukas, Sid Watters Jr, Shug McGaughey, Jack Van Berg, Bill Mott, Sonny Hine, Bob Baffert, Scotty Schulhofer, Bobby Frankel, Todd Pletcher and so many more. Jockeys Angel Cordero and Jerry Bailey each picked up six Woodward wins, Bill Shoemaker won five, while Eddie Arcaro and Braulio Baeza each won four. In the 1980s and 90s, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Pat Day and Gary Stevens all won the Woodward. Active Woodward winning riders include Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, Jorge Chavez, John Velazquez and Robby Albarado—regular rider of this year’s Woodward favorite, Curlin, currently rated top horse in the world by British racing publication Timeform.
The Grade 1 Action Continues…
Also on Saturday fans will see a group of top sprinters go seven furlongs in the 29th running of the $250,000, Grade 1 Forego, named for the four-time Woodward winner. The Forego honor roll includes two-time winner Groovy (1986 & ’87), Housebuster (1991), Rubiano (1992), and most recently Midnight Lute (2007), who would go on to win last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Sunday’s card features the 117th running of the Spinaway Stakes for two-year-old fillies, won in the past by such champions as Maskette (1908), Top Flight (1931), Affectionately (1962), Numbered Account (1971), Ruffian (1974). More recently Ashado would win the 2003 Spinaway and later earn Eclipse Awards at age three and four. The Grade 1 Spinaway will be run at seven furlongs for a quarter million dollar purse.
Finally the Saratoga Grade 1 stakes schedule wraps up Monday with two-year olds going seven furlongs in the 104th renewal of the $250,000 Three Chimney’s Hopeful. The winner of this prestigious juvenile stake is automatically considered the early leader on the road to the next year’s Triple Crown. Arguably the top two greatest horses of the last century, Man o’ War (1919) and Secretariat (1972) won the Hopeful as did Whirlaway (1940), Native Dancer (1952), Nashua (1954), Buckpasser (1965), Affirmed (1977) and, more recently, Afleet Alex (2004).
With $1,250,000 in prize money and three centuries of combined racing history, Saratoga’s “Grade 1 Grand Finale”—topped by Horse of the Year Curlin’s Woodward run—should be make this the most significant closing weekend of racing in Saratoga’s venerable history.