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Aug 29, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Finding a price in the Woodward

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - If the morning line is anywhere near close, Saturday's Woodward Stakes is a three horse race with several more fighting for fourth in the 1 1/8-mile competition.

Whitney Handicap winner Moreno is the 2-1 program favorite with Whitney runner-up Itsmyluckyday listed at 5-2 and the well rested Zivo the 5-1 third pick.

"We just tried to give him more time. He's doing really well," commented trainer Chad Brown about Zivo's eight weeks between starts.

Zivo hasn't faced this level of competition before. He won the 1 1/4-mile Suburban at Belmont Park on July 5, posting a three-length win over Moreno and fellow Woodward entrant Prayer for Relief.

"He needs some pace to run at," Brown noted. "I would expect (Itsmyluckyday) to engage Moreno a little sooner this time if he expects to have a chance to win. If Itsmyluckyday lets him gallop around again, he's not going to beat him."

No one will defeat Moreno Saturday if the other horses in the 10-horse field let the favorite alone on the lead.

"I don't think Moreno is going to have his own way in this race, for whatever reason, whether it's me or somebody else," Itsmyluckyday's trainer Eddie Plesa said. "Jockeys get paid a lot of money to ride these horses; they need to know how fast the horses are going in front of them. He (Moreno) won the (Whitney) - no ifs, ands or buts. He's the horse to beat."

Of the 10 horses entered in the $600,000 Woodward, three are 8-1 in the morning line: Long River, Micromanage and Romansh.

Micromanage, trained by Todd Pletcher, is coming off an 8 1/2-length win of the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone at Saratoga. He's a fairly consistent horse who rarely finishes off the board, but is not a speed horse.

Trainer Tom Albertrani saddles Romansh for Godolphin Stable and usually has the 4-year-old give a good effort. He was seventh in the Whitney after a fifth in the Suburban and third in the Met Mile.

Long River is stepping up in class off a fifth-place result in the Monmouth Cup when he was the 2-1 favorite. Earlier this year, the Kiaran McLaughlin- trained 4-year-old chestnut colt was fifth in the Charles Town Classic and seventh in Churchill Downs' Stephen Foster Handicap. He likes to stalk the pace and can possibly press Moreno from post 2.

"We want to try to win a graded stakes because of his great pedigree," McLaughlin said. "Everything hasn't quite gone great the last few races for him. We need to see something more, so we're going to slap blinkers on him and hope for the best. He's doing great, and just the last few races haven't been great, but we're not going to give up on it."

Prayer for Relief, fourth in the Whitney, needs to show improvement as he looks for his first win in eight months. The 6-year-old, trained by Dale Romans, came closest when second by a neck to Revolutionary in the Pimlico Special. Prayer for Relief won three times last year and is 12-1 for Saturday.

Listed at 10-1 is Norumbega, winner of the Brooklyn Handicap. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the 4-year-old gray colt was eighth in the Suburban at 5-1 and at 7-2 was eighth in Keeneland's Ben Ali back in April.

The two outsiders for Saturday are Last Gunfighter, 15-1, and 30-1 longshot Stephanoatsee. They will start from the two far outside posts and rarely show much speed.

Another Chad Brown trainee, Last Gunfighter closed 2013 by winning the Hawthorne Gold Cup, but just has the Mountainview Handicap at Penn National as his only win this season in three starts. The 5-year-old was ninth in the Suburban and a distant fifth in the Whitney.

"He didn't run badly, and he deserves another shot," Brown said. "Last year, he was pretty consistent. (The Mountainview) might have knocked him off a little bit; he ran hard in that race and bounced in the second race off the layoff, but in his last race he got a real wide trip in a tough heat and held his own pretty well. Hopefully, he can save some ground and make up a few lengths."

Stephanoatsee, from Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito's barn, is another 5-year- old, but with little experience in major stakes. He was eighth this year in Fair Grounds' Mineshaft Handicap. The horse has the smallest bankroll of the field at $286,600.

If Long River can press Moreno on the front end in the Woodward, things should set up nicely for Itsmyluckyday to capture the event. Running late will be Zivo who has a six-race win streak cooking, including five this year. However, don't expect any of the longshots to steal the race.

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