HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 22, 2022 — Only seven three-year-olds will meet on the turf in Queens in Saturday’s co-featured Woodhaven Stakes. The significance of that is a strong case can be made for six of them.
We understand why Unanimous Choice is the early line favorite at 2-1. He undefeated in two starts, he’s Chad Brown, and he absolutely steamrolled an optimal allowances field in his season’s debut, a powerful late rally despite highly unfavorable pace and trip dynamics.
There are faster rivals here who have distinguished themselves to a higher degree.
Shug McGaughey’s Fort Washington (7-2) is sitting n a breakthrough performance, broke his maiden on today’s course, and reunites with winning pilot Jose Lezcano. He trained very well over deepish Payson before shipping back north.
Christophe Clement’s beat the latter in his first start for Shug, a very sharp season’s debut in which Heaven Street (9-2) showed excellent stalking speed, assuring a good clear trip, and held them all off after getting first run.
The last quarter-mile in the Columbia Stakes shaded 24 seconds, a section of that mile event in which Fort Washington came from farther back, hence the hair-splitting decision between these two.
But we’ll take any value offered on Ohtwothreefive (6-1). The George Weaver barn has come alive in a big way in recent weeks and this one is on a delayed top turf effort, subsequently muddied up by a dirt and synthetic run. Back on turf and back to winning partner Eric Cancel.
Getting weight from all with tactical speed and an inside draw makes this a good gamble if the price holds. Here is the first of three tracks, a selection that includes graded stakes from Hot Springs and Lexington, along with our regular featured coverage from Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
AQUEDUCT RACE TRACK
WOODHAVEN STAKES Race 9
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Fort Washington
THE VALUE BET: Ohtwothreefive to win at 5-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta box Fort Washington, Ohtwothreefive and Unanimous Consent
Grade 1 APPLE BLOSSOM Race 5
Something has to give when champions collide and in this match, Ce Ce (2-1) has a problem. Her main rival, Letruska (7-5), winner of this race last year, is loose on the lead and it will be up to the sprint champion to apply pressure. At the least, she must be in hailing distance and comfortable doing so.
What we learned from her winning two-turn prep, the G2 Azeri, is she can rate, get first run, be challenged, then re-surge for the win, the essence of class. And Michael McCarthy is an ace in LAY-3 scenarios. This is a big spot. Some great champions have won this race.
Letruska won as easily as horses can win, beating very ordinary rivals. Clairiere (5-2) won her prep, too, beating some very decent fillies, and she did it in high style. She has made a good transition from 3 to 4. All she’s lacking is a race over the strip. She is second co-highweight with Ce Ce, both getting three pounds. We’re going for an upset with a filly that still has upside potential.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Letruska
THE VALJUE BET: Clariere to win at 5-2 or greater.
EXOTICA: Key-boxing Clairiere with the two champions
G2 OAKLAWN HANDICAP Race 11
This nine furlongs is a lot more open. We’re shading Plainsman (5-2), the difference being the tactical speed that will have her in this throughout, enabling first run with the hope that regular recent partner Joel Rosario can blow this race wide open in midstretch.
After a win and a second in his prep G3 Essex prep, this is the spot Brad Cox has been pointing for. He gets a favorable 3-pound switch from Essex winner Rated R Superstar (5-1), who freaked over his favorite surface last out.
Fearless (9-5) won his last as easy as he pleased late but comes back on relatively short rest, not Todd Pletcher’s modus operandi. Super Stock (10-1), pointed to this is 2-for-4 at the trip and 2-for-13 at all others. Further, he won the 2021 Arkansas Derby at today’s distance.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Plainsman
THE VALUE BET: Super Stock to win at 8-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Key-boxing Plainsman first and second in exactas and trifectas with his three rivals above
PRELIMINARY ALLLOWANCES Race 5
If performance figures are a measure–they always are–two stand out over the rest. Both are making their seasonal debuts but do so for barns that know just how to do this.
Seasons (2-1) is making her first start for Josie Carroll who reaches out for Tyler Gaffalione, a rider with a meet title on his mind. After breaking maiden on debut at Saratoga, Tapit filly has been fed a career of stakes the rest of the way, albeit of the Canadian variety.
Well, she’s now coached by a Canadian trainer and shows nine public workouts for this dating back to mid-February and has done it quite well at Palm Meadowlands before shipping to Keeneland where she posted a best of 63 work. Well posted to save ground and a wicked late kick will have her running in the lane.
Nevisian Sunrise (9-5) returns from a 301-day layup, but it’s Chad Brown who taps a stable favorite and a man familiar with the War Front filly, Irad Ortiz Jr. This one has 10 works going back to January at Payson Park. As with Seasons, fitness will not be an issue. She won her lone start in Lexington at today’s trip.
Finally, Commanders Palace (10-1) may prove something good to eat. She’s had her prep for this in South Florida for Mark Casse and was narrowly beaten by ‘Nevisian’ in her lone local start, FOur recent orks applied the finishing touches. Luis Saez takes the call.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Nevisian Spirit
THE VALUE BET: Commanders Palace to win at 7-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box. Trifecta key-box Nevisian Spirit first and second with Seasons and Commanders Palace.
NX3 ALLOWANCES Race 7
A non-winners of three other than; don’t see that very often these days. This 1-1/16 miles second leg of the $3 all-turf Pick 3, for those so inclined, Appears a three-filly affair; Gam’s Mission (3-1), Market Rumor (6-1) and Sweet Enough (4-1).
The former ran well in her return, enjoying a good stalking trip, but with ground loss, and she grinded her way down the lane to finish second, giving the impression of needing the effort. Regular rider Adam Beschizza takes the return call.
Market Rumor made one long, sustained run in her season’s debut going 7-1/2 at Gulfstream Park and just missed by a neck. Today’s longer trip and surface appear a better fit. Sweet Enough makes her North American debut for Roger Attfield who know how to do this, is a well bred Lope de Vega filly and kept good company in Europe. She has worked very strongly at deepish Payson Park and Irad Jr. comes with the package.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Gam’s Mission
THE VALUE BET: Market Rumor to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box.
G2 ELKHORN Race 9
And what an open scramble this is, Five of the nine entered can take home the lion’s of the $350,000 pot, from the inside out: Bemma’s Boy (5-1), Two Emmys (7-2), Channel Maker (2-1), Tiberius Mercurius (12-1) and Another Mystery. We’ll concentrate of three here.
Bemma’s Boy and Tiberius Mercuries are an uncoupled pair from Mike Maker. Both appear to be specifically pointed in this direction. Bemma’s Boy was a very good third in his prep for this now returns to a course (1-for-1) and trip (3) 2-1-0 he enjoys. A ground-saving position and Umberto Rispoli appear a good fit in this spot.
‘Tiberius’ is 2-for-3 since the barn change to Maker and gets first-time Tyler here. He’ll be seriously tested for place but the price should be right. Two Emmys is a confirmed, classy speedster which never seems to run a bad one and was second in the G3 Sycamore at the trip here last fall and taking the first and last G1 Mister D at Arlington Park, nee the Arlington Million. Regular pilot James Graham takes the re-ride.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Two Emmys
THE VALUE BET: Bemma’s Boy to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box of the three above. Five-horse Dime Super box with all the above
Per usual: Exotics plays at minimums available. Straight bets in $2 units.
this is a live column and will be updated throughout the weekend