How to bet the 2019 Woodchopper Stakes

December 27th, 2019

An American classic winner will contest the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds, but there’s no guarantee he’ll reach the winner’s circle.

The horse in question is #11 Sir Winston, who is favored at 7-2 on the morning line in his first start since he rallied to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 8.

Sir Winston is certainly the most accomplished horse in the Woodchopper field, but he is cutting back to a mile and switching to grass, a couple of major changes to overcome. He’s also returning from an injury-induced layoff, and his connections seem to be viewing this race as a starting point more than anything else.

Perhaps Sir Winston’s proven class will carry the day, but given the challenges he is facing, I’m tempted to exclude him entirely from my tickets. I’ll do the same with #12 Hog Creek Hustle (9-2), a grade 1 winner sprinting on dirt. This late-running son of Overanalyze has never run on grass and isn’t particularly bred to relish the surface, which makes him another vulnerable short-priced contender.

I’ll favor three horses with experience on turf:
  • #3 Forty Under (20-1), the winner of the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) as a juvenile. His form is a bit muddy this year, but he ran OK in the Gio Ponti Stakes off a long layoff last month. Trainer Jeremiah Englehart strikes at a 24% rate with horses running for the second time after a break.
  • #7 The Last Zip (6-1), third in the one-mile Secretariat Stakes (G1) this summer. This Michael Stidham trainee prepped with a two-length allowance win November 30 at Fair Grounds and has the speed to be a factor from the outset.
  • #13 Tracksmith (6-1), a consistent colt who just missed in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs last month. This stretch-running colt could be caught wide because of his outside post, but he is training sharply and brings improving form to the Woodchopper.
For the purpose of multi-race wagers, I would be tempted to use these three colts and hope for the best. For single-race exotics, let’s key them on top of a trifecta and spread deep underneath.

$0.50 trifecta: 3,7,13 with 3,4,7,10,13 with 3,4,6,7,8,10,13 ($30)

Good luck!