The turf-to-dirt angle at Saratoga has been strong this meet, at least in Grade 1 company. Last weekend it was Catholic Boy coming from turf to dirt in the Travers; this Saturday, WinStar, China Horse Club, SF Racing and Head of Plains' Yoshida followed the same path to the G1 Woodward and came out on top of the 14-horse field. Giving jockey Joel Rosario his third straight graded stakes win, 6-1 chance Yoshida came flying from the well off the pace to cross the wire two lengths ahead of 3-1 favorite Gunnevera. Trained by Bill Mott, the 4-year-old son of Heart's Cry completed nine furlongs over the fast main track in 1:48.94, and is now a Grade 1 winner on dirt and on the turf (Old Forester Turf Classic in May).
“Well, we got our answer,” said Mott. “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, who won two legs of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He went well. This was a pretty impressive run, actually. I don't think you ever really know how they'll run on a surface until you try them.
“Elliot Walden [of WinStar Farm] has been wanting to try it for a long time. We talked about it and 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.”
Most recently fifth as the favorite in the G1 Fourstardave Handicap on the turf, Yoshida was making his second start off a short layoff after a very good fifth-place finish in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Making his first 2018 start on the dirt, Yoshida broke from the rail position in the well-matched field of 14 for the Woodward.
Maintaining his rail position around the clubhouse turn, Rosario kept Yoshida covered up in mid-pack. The colt seemed to have no issue taking the dirt all the way down the backstretch as Leofric and Rally Cry battled through fractions of :24.00 and :47.69. Gunnevera, the 3-1 favorite, was second-last of the group in the early going, but began steadily advancing along the outside as the field approached the far turn.
Rosario had to wait for racing room, but he guided Yoshida off the rail as soon as he saw a chance and went very wide, though not as wide as Gunnevera, around the last curve of the far turn. Those two came flying down the stretch in the final eighth of a mile, Yoshida about a length ahead of Gunnevera, overtaking the pacesetters near the wire. Yoshida kicked away from Gunnevera to win by about two lengths, while Gunnevera ran down a very determined Leofric for the place. Rally Cry finished fourth.
“He went very nice,” Rosario said of Yoshida. “I was just a passenger. He was taking very nice to the dirt, and he liked it early on. Turning for home, he was there for me, and he kept going. Like I said, I was just a passenger. All my thanks to Bill Mott, I'm glad I won the race for him, and that he gave me the opportunity. This is a nice horse.”
Trainer Antonio Sano, who saddled runner-up Gunnevera, tried to lodge a claim of foul on the winner, but it was disallowed by the stewards and the result was unchanged.
“My horse ran good but, if you look, in the last turn, that horse [Yoshida] bumped us and pushed us wide – 10 wide – and it was just impossible to win [from there],” Sano said. “It was a good race, but that [made the difference].”
Following Rally Cry in fourth, the remaining order of finish was as follows: Patch, Term of Art, Hence, Tapwrit, Sunny Ridge, Zanotti, Kurilov, Discreet Lover, Seeking the Soul, and a distanced Imperative.
Bred in Japan by Northern Farm, Yoshida is sired by the Sunday Silence stallion Heart's Cry and out of the Grade 1 winner Hilda's Passion (Canadian Frontier). At the end of her career, Hilda's Passion was sold to Katsumi Yoshida for a tag of $1.225 million; Yoshida is her second foal.
Yoshida finished second on debut as a 2-year-old, then broke his maiden as a sophomore at Keeneland before winning his first start in stakes company in the James W. Murphy. From there, Mott entered the colt in graded company, but it took a few starts before he finally found the winner's circle again in the G3 Hill Prince. Yoshida took the winter off, then came back to win the G1 Old Forester Turf Classic off the layoff on Derby day at Churchill Downs. He ran a very good fifth in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, then ran a bit flat last out in the Fourstardave, his first start since Ascot. Overall, Yoshida's record stands at five wins and three second from 11 starts, with earnings of over $1.2 million and Grade 1 wins on both turf and dirt.
“There's a lot of people involved to say where he might run next,” Mott said. “He's a Grade 1 winner on the dirt and he's a Grade 1 winner on the turf. We'll definitely talk about our options, after seeing this, the Breeders' Cup Classic would have to be on the table you'd think. He's a Grade 1 winner going a mile and an eighth on the turf. We haven't won going a mile and quarter, but after today you'd have to start thinking of his options.”
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