SARATOGA SPRINGS — After 13 months, Luis Saez could feel the difference when he got atop Global Campaign for Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Woodward Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Saez was Global Campaign’s regular rider as a 3-year-old in 2019, piloting him to three victories in five starts — including a win in the Grade III Peter Pan at Belmont Park — but hadn’t ridden the colt in any of his three previous starts as a 4-year-old.
Reunited for the first time since the 2019 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, Saez and Global Campaign set the pace at the front in the Woodward, emerging from a head-to-head duel with favored Tacitus to score the colt’s first Grade I win by 1 3/4 lengths for trainer Stanley Hough.
“He grew a lot,” Saez said of Global Campaign’s progress from 2019. “He’s a different kind of horse. He feels stronger, he’s better.”
Tacitus held on for second, with Prioritize getting up for third. Spinoff and Math Wizard completed the five-horse field.
Global Campaign has shown an affinity for added distance in his 4-year-old season. After winning the 1 1/8-mile Grade III Monmouth Cup on July 18 at Monmouth Park, the son of Curlin stretched out to 1 1/4 miles for the Woodward and covered the distance in 2:01.40.
“It worked out great,” Hough told the New York Racing Association. “He rode a great race and he beat a very good horse. I think he’s got a good, steady rhythm to him. I think he’s definitely cut out for this distance.”
With dark clouds starting to roll in just before the race went to the post, Global Campaign got to the front just out of the gate and immediately hitched into a one-on-one showdown with Tacitus, who stalked a half-length behind under Jose Ortiz.
The two leaders cruised through fractions of 24.65 for the quarter-mile and 48.89 for a half-mile; after a mile, the two were 5 1/2 lengths clear of the remainder of the field.
“I felt the pressure,” Saez said. “We were rolling, and it was pretty fast, but I feel like I had the horse. He did it like normal. He was running, and that’s what he loved.”
Saez quickened the pace at the three-eighths pole, and Tacitus — winner of the Grade II Suburban last time out on July 4 at Belmont Park, couldn’t respond after a brief challenge as Global Campaign drew off down the stretch to win without any late pressure.
“It was the perfect trip; we were very happy with the trip we had,” Ortiz said. “It’s how [trainer] Bill [Mott] drew it up. Kudos to the winner. He ran a huge race.”
Heading into the race, Hough gave Saez the green light to put Global Campaign on the lead, the same formula that worked in the Monmouth Cup.
“He had a lot of speed,” Saez said. “You never know, you just try to break good from the gate, and he did pretty good from there. He was right there, he controlled the pace. I had a lot of pressure all the way, but he kept battling. He never gave up.”
Global Campaign has now won three times in four starts this season, and won in stepping up to Grade I competition for the first time.
“I gained a lot of confidence in his last race [the Monmouth Cup], when he took a couple challenges and drew off a bit,” Hough said. “I thought that was a good sign. His mile-and-an-eighth races were pretty good between the Peter Pan and the last race. One thing about this horse: If he’s ever to got to the lead at some point or another, he’s won the race. The only time he hasn’t won, he never got the lead.”
Tacitus finished ahead of Global Campaign when the two raced at Saratoga in 2019, with Tacitus taking second and Global Campaign third in the Jim Dandy.
Tacitus, the runner-up in the Travers, Belmont and Jim Dandy last year, was coming off a dominant performance two months ago in the Suburban, winning by 8 3/4 lengths.
Beating a rival of that caliber has Hough buoyant on Global Campaign’s prospects moving forward.
“I’m more than satisfied,” Hough said. “He beat a good horse. We’re all excited. It’s a great win. That’s what the game is all about. You try to develop horses that will go on and be a sire, and I believe he’ll make a good one.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.