The day before the Woodward, Bill Mott stood in front of Yoshida’s stall and explained his outlook on switching surfaces with the Japanese-bred 4-year-old.
“Maybe sometimes you have a real strong feeling about it,” Mott said, “But for me, I have a wait and see. Let’s get him over there, get him saddled and I want to see the result.”
A day later, moments after Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward, Mott smiled.
“Well, I said I would take a wait-and-see attitude…”
Yoshida handled the rest, turning a 14-horse puzzle into a one-horse statement, rallying from 10th to win by 2 lengths over favorite Gunnevera and Leofric. Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing and Head of Plains Partners and ridden by Joel Rosario, Yoshida finished 9 furlongs over the fast main track in 1:49.94.
Yoshida broke well from the inside and Rosario did what he does best, sat still and allowed Yoshida to find his own position, off the pace and along the rail, without expending any energy. Into the first turn, Leofric outran Rally Cry, Sunny Ridge and a phalanx of horses to establish a lead. Favorite Gunnevera failed to find a spot from post 9, floating wide around the first turn.
Leofric led Rally Cry, Zanotti, Sunny Ridge and Seeking The Soul through the first quarter in :24 and the half in :47.69. Rosario made sure he kept his rail position inside Tapwrit and Kurilov. There was a moment, or five, when Rosario could have allowed Yoshida to slide back farther but he made sure he stayed in his slot.
Around the far turn, Leofric and Rally Cry led a six-pack of contenders while Yoshida and Gunnevera began to move as a team. By the quarter pole, it was a 12-pack as horses stacked across the track like stable area golf carts Tuesday morning. Leofric kicked for home, Rally Cry was poised to his right. Sunny Ridge battled three wide. Seeking The Soul was there, but was spent. Zanotti paddled five wide. Kurilov had a chance six wide. Discreet Lover needed a jolt and a seam. Tapwrit had the rail but had nothing. Way outside, Yoshida and Gunnevera launched. Wider, Calumet’s Patch and Term Of Art tried to come around them and Calumet’s Hence aimed inside.
It was the scrum of the year – with one survivor, the dirt-loving Yoshida.
To read the rest of the Woodward recap, download Sunday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by EasyFix Stable Solutions.