By Gene Kershner
The Grade 1 $750,000 Woodward Stakes is the big race this holiday weekend at Saratoga and will be televised on Saturday afternoon along with the Grade 2 $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap and the Grade 1 $500,000 Forego on a two-hour "Summer at Saratoga" NBC Sports Network production (4 - 6 p.m. EDT).
Some thoughts as we head into the final weekend at the Spa…
- The Travers was an interesting race that 33-1 Moreno almost stole from the big stars. Lukas looks like a genius for putting blinkers on Will Take Charge in the Dandy whose form carried over to the Midsummer Derby.
- Palace Malice's connections sure would like a do-over after his terrible break and big finish, basically running out of racetrack and barely nosed out of the show by Orb.
- Orb showed he indeed needed another race after the 11-week layoff. I'm not totally sold that he'll be doing big things in his next race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and will likely be taking a stand against.
- It was nice to see what Will Take Charge could do with some running room. We'll likely see a fairly big field for the Classic so you might have seen his best and he's raced eight times already this year. But he along with Moreno look like they are headed to Parx and the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 21.
- Setting the over/under for Verrazano's retirement for next Saturday.
- The Grade 2 $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters is scheduled for a Monday night (Sept. 9) this year, which seems to be a change in schedule from past years when the race was held on a Friday evening. It's the biggest race on the calendar at PID and for some reason they are also running the $250,000 Presque Isle Mile on Sunday night, which is opening day for NFL Football instead of on the undercard of the Masters. Interesting marketing move.
- Fort Erie Race Track honored the late Bob Summers on their final Tuesday night twilight card of the year with the $30,000 Bob Summers Memorial Cup. A good crowd was on hand to see a 7-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding named d'Oro Diablo win the Summers Cup. Mrs. Summers and some of his cousins were on hand along with Fort Erie trainer Nick Gonzalez and Buffalo Raceway's Sam Pendolino to honor and remember the Happy Handicapper.
- Sounds like 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan is headed to Woodbine on Sunday Sept. 15 to defend his Woodbine Mile title. Good news for our neighbors to the north.
- Fort Larned scratched out of the Woodward on Thursday, leaving a field of six and Paynter will assume the role of morning line favorite. I like Successful Dan off his near miss in the Whitney and Flat Out, who always gives you an honest race and shows a couple solid workouts since his last outing at Belmont.
- NFL Hall of Famer Bill Parcells will run his ridgling Saratoga Snacks (6-1) in the Forego against Zayat Stables' powerful even-money coupled entry of Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip. The James Marvin winner on opening day Sage Valley (7-2) will try and challenge the Zayat duo both coming off big wins. Fast Bullet won the Grade 2 True North H. on Belmont Stakes day and Justin Phillip won the first Grade 1 of his career in the Vanderbilt earlier in the meet.
- The Grade 2 Baruch will be run as Race 7 and is not a part of the guaranteed $1 million Pick-4. When tracks don't bunch the graded stakes races together in late Pick-4, it drives me and other horseplayers crazy. Instead, two claiming races after the Woodward are part of the late Pick-4. Nonsense.
- How good was Game On Dude's Pacific Classic? The question is, was last year's Classic an anomaly or is he setting us up again for a big letdown in November?
- As reported on earlier in the week by the Daily Racing Form's Matt Hegarty, a new law is set to go into effect on Jan. 1 will require out-of-state account-wagering operators to pay a 5-cent fee for every dollar wagered through an out-of-state ADW by a New York resident, with the majority of those fees going to their New York competitors. Wonder who will end up paying for that?