Flat Out Leads Very Tough Woodward


Flat Out is Ellis Starr's pick for this week's Woodward Stakes with Successful Dan and Paynter rounding out his top three (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
The 60th running of the $750,000 Woodward Stakes brings us a six horse field, three of them having just run against one-another in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap over the same track four weeks ago. However, with Whitney winner Cross Traffic waiting for the Jockey Club Gold Cup next month, the horse entering the Woodward off the best recent effort appears to be Flat Out, who won the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at the distance of the Woodward in his most recent start. Of the three horses that exit the Whitney, runner-up Successful Dan could be on an improving pattern and come back to the form that saw him win the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes in April at this mile and one-eighth distance. Whitney third and sixth place finishers Mucho Macho Man and Alpha, respectively, although having earned more than $3.7 million between them, are both seeking their first wins of 2013. Ron the Greek rallied from far back to get to third early in the stretch in the Whitney then flattened out but ran well enough early in the year when victorious in the Sunshine Millions Classic to be a factor. Last but certainly not least is Paynter, coming out from California and making his third start on the comeback trail. Narrowly missing in last year's Belmont Stakes before a strong win in the Grade 1 Haskell, Paynter has proven he fits with the best and appears to be a strong contender in the Woodward Stakes.
Note: It was reported earlier this week that Fort Larned, who was entered in the Woodward, would not run.
Flat Out started his 2013 campaign in mediocre fashion at best, with fourth and fifth place finishes in graded stakes in Florida and in New Orleans, but improved markedly when returned to his home base in New York.  He won the Westchester Stakes with a career best 129 Equibase Speed Figure then two races later took the Suburban Handicap powerfully with a 123 figure. Flattered when Suburban runner-up Last Gunfighter won the Philip H. Iselin Stakes in his next start, Flat Out sat out the Whitney Invitational Handicap (in which four Woodward entrants ran) to wait for this race. With a very strong half-mile workout that was the best of 44 at Saratoga five days ago he sends a strong signal he is in tip-top shape, Flat Out appears ready to win his second graded stakes in a row and go over the $3 million mark in career earnings as well. 
Successful Dan ran the best of the quartet that exit the Whitney, as he rallied from next-to-last in the field of eight to get second, beaten less than a length on the wire. Having improved his Equibase Speed Figures in each of his last three races, from 102 to 106 to 121, Successful Dan appears to have move improving to do. Since his last race effort was just two speed figure points from what Flat Out earned to win the Suburban, Successful Dan would be no surprise if winning for the ninth time in his 15th career start. 

Paynter proved himself one of the best three-year-olds in the land last year when missing by a neck in the 2012 Belmont Stakes then winning the Haskell Invitational powerfully by three and three-quarter lengths. Unfortunately he had health issues, which took their toll on him last fall and this winter, but in April he returned as if he had never been away. He won powerfully by four and one-half lengths with a 119 in a sprint then stretched out and finished second in the San Diego Handicap. With a career best figure of 123 last year and bringing Del Mar leading jockey Rafael Bejarano with him to New York, Paynter should continue to progress on the comeback trail and be a strong factor in the outcome of the Woodward.
The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Alpha (113), Mucho Macho Man (119) and Ron the Greek (123). 
My Selections:
Flat Out
Successful Dan
$750,000 Woodward Stakes
Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.
3-year-olds and older, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)







Ron the Greek (FL)

Javier Castellano

Bill Mott



Successful Dan (KY)

Julien Leparoux

Charlie LoPresti



Fort Larned (KY)

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Ian Wilkes



Flat Out (FL)

Junior Alvarado

Bill Mott



Paynter (KY)

Rafael Bejarano

Bob Baffert



Mucho Macho Man (FL)

Edgar Prado

Kathy Ritvo



Alpha (KY)

John Velazquez

Kiaran McLaughlin


All carry 126 pounds.