Horse Racing

Yoshida prevails in Woodward Stakes

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

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Trainer Bill Mott was on a fact-finding mission.

In a year with no clear standout in the turf male ranks, the Hall of Fame conditioner had a proven Grade 1 winner on the grass in Yoshida. While there were ample options in that division for the son of Heart's Cry, the fact there was no handicap standout set to contest the September 1 Woodward Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1)—not to mention ample stud value to be gained—swayed Mott and his slate of owners to go ahead and see how the colt's talent translated onto the main track.

In the middle of a cavalry charge that emerged at the top of the lane in the 1 1/8-mile test, Yoshida put in a run that gave his team the best possible answer, one that has now sparked a happy quandary with regard to his Breeders' Cup plans for this season.

For the second time in as many weeks, a top-level turf performer has absconded with one of Saratoga Race Course's most historic Grade 1 dirt prizes. In his first try over the main track, Yoshida looked every bit the natural as he surged up from well back in the 14-horse field and galloped home with authority to best Gunnevera by two lengths in Saturday's US$750,000 Woodward.

The prior weekend at the Spa saw Catholic Boy become a Grade 1 winner on both surfaces when he returned to the dirt and earned a handy triumph in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) to go along with his Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) victory in July. Though Yoshida had not tried dirt before the Woodward, his pedigree suggested he would be a candidate to do likewise as he counts Hall of Famer and dual classic winner Sunday Silence as his grandsire and is out of Hilda's Passion, who earned her grade 1 score in the 2011 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.

While Yoshida's workouts on the dirt were solid enough, they were only a minor litmus test for what he faced—a full field that featured the likes of a classic winner in Tapwrit, and included multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera, who already owned a graded stakes win over the Saratoga main track.

“Well, we got our answer,” said Mott, who trains Yoshida for owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners. “I had a wait-and-see attitude (about the switch from turf). The horse had worked well on the dirt. As I said before, he's got a lot of pedigree for the dirt. His mother won the Ballerina here, and (his sire) is a son of Sunday Silence. But I don't think you ever really know how they'll run on a surface until you try them.

Yoshida has been running so well on the turf, and he's a Grade 1 winner on the turf, so you can't say we made a mistake by not running him on the dirt. We were going to do it, it was just a matter of the opportune time, and right now there was no turf race that we had in mind in the next 30 days, so we thought, 'Let's do it.'”

- The Blood Horse

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