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Aug 31, 2012

East coast best vie in Woodward Stakes


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Leading eastern handicap horses converge on Saratoga Race Course for Saturday's $750,000 Woodward Stakes. Seven older thoroughbreds will compete in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Two of the last three Woodwards have been won by fillies. In 2009, champion 3- year-old filly Rachel Alexandra beat the boys and last year, 4-year-old Havre de Grace won on her way to being voted Horse of the Year.

Eight weeks after winning the Suburban Handicap, Mucho Macho Man gets back into action with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith again in the saddle. The 4- year-old colt, trained by Kathy Ritvo, has drawn post three.

"We haven't run him in a Grade 1 stakes since the (2011) Belmont, but the last two races he's run in were Grade 1-type fields, and he beat them," said the trainer.

Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Mucho Macho Man posted victories earlier this year at Gulfstream Park in the Sunshine Millions Classic and Gulfstream Park Handicap. His only blemish this year was a third place finish in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 4.

In 16 career starts, Mucho Macho Man has six wins for $1,306,410.

Also returning from the Suburban is trainer Bill Mott's, To Honor and Serve. Owned by Live Oak Plantation, the 4-year-old colt will be ridden by John Velazquez from post six.

"We're disappointed in his race in the Suburban (fourth), but given my excuse of the heat (and) the weather, I think he'll run better if we get a decent day," Mott said.

To Honor and Serve began his 2012 campaign with a 5 1/4 length win in the Westchester Handicap at Belmont Park, followed by a third to Shackleford in the Met Mile.

Last year's Pennsylvania Derby champ has banked $1,328,840 with seven wins in 14 lifetime starts.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will start Stay Thirsty and Rule in Saturday's race. Stay Thirsty will break from post five with jockey Javier Castellano and Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Rule from the inside post.

Stay Thirsty is winless since claiming last year's Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga. Owned by Mike Repole, the 4-year-old colt was second in the Vanlandingham on May 17 as the even-money favorite and fifth in the Suburban Handicap, both at Belmont Park.

With more than $1.5 million in earnings, Stay Thirsty is the wealthiest of the Woodward starters.

Rule, owned by WinStar Farm, was ninth behind Fort Larned in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 4. The 5-year-old captured the Monmouth Cup on July 7 in his other start this year. Rule has won six of 17 career starts for $1,143,450.

Here is the Woodward field in post position order: Rule, Ramon Dominguez; Gourmet Dinner, Alan Garcia; Mucho Macho Man, Mike Smith; Trickmeister, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Stay Thirsty, Javier Castellano; To Honor and Serve, John Velazquez and Cease, Joel Rosario.

Post-time will be approximately 5:45 p.m. (ET) and NBC will broadcast the race.

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