Trainer Bill Mott said Yoshida came out of Saturday’s Woodward victory at Saratoga Race Course in good order, but that it’s too early for any concrete plans.
While the 4-year-old had been racing exclusively on turf through 10 career starts, he trains on the dirt on a regular basis and does it well, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when he raced well over it Saturday.
Still, Yoshida needed to prove himself, and did.
Yoshida, turf to dirt in the Woodward pic.twitter.com/SogI5DMiI5— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) September 1, 2018
“You have to see it in the afternoons under race conditions,” Mott said. “That’s what really counts. You can always think he’s handling it well in training, but race conditions are a different story.
Yoshida’s Woodward victory put the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on the table as a potential target race.
He beat 13 rivals in the Woodward, and did so by rallying from 10th place at the half-mile pole.
“He looked pretty good this morning,” Mott said. “I thought he was traveling well, and then once he left the half-mile pole, you could see he was starting to go in the right direction. It was a good sign.”
Yoshida earned a 102 Beyer speed figure for the Woodward, not far off the number he received for his other Grade I victory, in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
Another horse undergoing a turf-to-dirt transformation on Woodward Day, Spinaway winner Sippican Harbor, has more definitive plans.
The Spinaway was a “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and trainer Gary Contessa said he would train her up to the race in November at Churchill Downs.
She deserves a break,” he said. "I ran her 20 days apart to get her ready. Two months to get her to the Breeders’ Cup? Piece of cake.
“We’re not going back to the turf anytime soon, but I do believe she’s just as good on grass as she is on dirt. So the time may come when she does double duty.”
Sippican Harbor has raced three times at the Saratoga meet, opening with a fifth on turf, then winning a turf race that was rained off the grass and onto the main track on Aug. 12. She won by 17 lengths, so Contessa wheeled her right back in the Spinaway.
There wasn’t much movement on Sunday in the race for the 2018 riding championship, which means that Irad Ortiz Jr. all but clinched his second title and first since 2015.
It’s over, unless Javier Castellano can pull off a miraculous performance now that he trails Ortiz by seven with one day of racing left. The one-day record for victories on a Saratoga card is six, achieved by Ramon Dominguez twice and John Velazquez once.
Barring scratches, Castellano is scheduled to ride nine races on Monday’s 11-race card, with one also-eligible.
To start the final week of racing, he won 10 races in four days -- more than Ortiz and his brother Jose won combined in that stretch -- to get within six of Irad Ortiz.
But Castellano couldn’t keep that momentum going on Sunday. The turning point came in the fifth race, when Ortiz won aboard a 13-1 long shot, Discreet Image, for his 50th of the meet while Castellano finished third on the morning-line favorite, Sweet Connie Girl.
Castellano has 43 winners. Jose Ortiz, the two-time reigning champion, won three Sunday to pull within four of Castellano for second.
Trainer Chad Brown, meanwhile, added one more victory to what was already a record total, when Mighty Scarlett won the ninth race.
That gave Brown 44 winners for the meet. He had tied the meet record of 40 heading into Saturday’s Woodward card.
He’ll likely continue to pile it on on Monday, with seven horses entered in five races.
Starlight Racing will be looking to get to the winner’s circle for the second time this meet with its 2-year-old Sombeyay in the Grade I Hopeful Monday.
Sombeyay won the Grade III Sanford on opening weekend by a neck over Strike Silver, but isn’t the morning-line favorite for the Hopeful, as Mucho comes into the race off a maiden win by almost 10 lengths on Aug. 4.
“He was quite impressive,” trainer Bill Mott said. “I think he was kind of the buzz horse for a few days around here after winning. People were commenting on how nice he looked. I mean, visually, he looked impressive.”
Also on the card, Voodoo Song will attempt to keep his Saratoga record clean, as the even-money favorite in the Grade II Bernard Baruch.
He won all four of his races at last year’s meet, then came back to win the Grade I Fourstardave on Aug. 11 by a neck over Delta Prince.
"Last year, he ran four times and won four, but this year we've given him more time between races," trainer Linda Rice said. "He clearly deserves it and he's performed well that way.
"We were pretty pleased with his maturity from 3 to 4," Rice added. "We got him started early in April just to get a run in him and then we ran him seven furlongs. I think that we've been pleased with his progression at 4."
AROUND THE TRACK
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas turned 83 on Sunday and had one horse on the card, She’s Got It All in the seventh.
She failed to win in her third race of the meet. …
Trainer Mark Casse had high hopes for the meet, especially after he won the Schuylerville on opening day with Catherinethegreat and decided to run Wonder Gadot in the Travers, the first filly to do so since 1979.
He comes into Monday’s closing day with just two wins from 60 starts (3 percent), and Wonder Gadot was not one of them; she was last of 10 in the Travers.
Also, Catherinethegreat came back in the Spinaway Saturday, but finished ninth. ...
The career debut of the 2-year-old filly Graceful Princess in the fourth race gained some extra attention, since she's the third foal out of former Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, and she didn't disappoint.
She won by 1 3/4 lengths.