Melnyk Racing Stables’ Bridgetown will be looking for two stakes victories in-a-row when he goes to the post along with fellow Florida-breds Gin Play and Wekiva Wachee in the Grade 3 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lextington, Ky., Saturday. The five and one-half furlong sprint over the grass has drawn a field of seven sprinters vying for the winner’s share of the $150,000 purse.
In four starts this year, Bridgetown has two seconds and a third to go along with his last start when he successfully defended his title in the $100,000 Troy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 15. The 5-year-old son of Speightstown who was bred in Florida by Eugene Melnyk, owner of Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, also won the 5-1/2 furlong turf stake last year at the Spa. After the 2011 Troy victory, Bridgetown was given some time off before returning to the races on May 5, Derby day at Churchill Downs to finish second in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint behind winner Great Attack. Interestingly, Bridgetown was also second in the Turf Sprint in 2011 to Really Ready.
Bridgetown then came back a month later to run second behind winner Ben’s Cat in the $150,000 Parx Dash Handicap at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa., as the 121-pound high weight. Trainer Todd Pletcher then took Bridgetown to Saratoga where he was third in the $100,000 Willard Straight Stakes behind winner Fiddlers Patriot before taking his second Troy.
Bridgetown has drawn post two in the Woodford and will have jockey Javier Castellano in the irons.
Breaking just to the inside of Bridgetown will be Gin Play, another coming into the Woodford off of a winning effort. Trained by Cecil Stewart for Strickland Farm Inc., Gin Play was last seen winning a $16,000 claiming race at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., by some six lengths. That was only the second victory for the 8-year-old veteran who had won his first race against $7,500 claimers at Presque Isle on August 14.
Stewart will give a leg up on Gin Play to jockey James Graham who will be riding the son of Slew Gin Fizz for the first time. Gin Play was bred in Florida by Victoria Farm Inc. in Alachua.
Further to the outside of the starting gate in post five will be Wekiva Wachee from the Mike Dini barn. Bred in Florida by his owner Mary Jean Bonfili of St. Petersburg, Wekiva Wachee was third to Bridgetown two races back in the Troy Stakes. Between those races however, the 7-year-old gelding finished a competitive fifth, beaten just four and one-half lengths in a $32,000 optional claiming race at Laurel Race Course in Baltimore on Sept. 12.
A winner of five career races from 38 starts, Wekiva Wachee is another who is trying for his first added-money event. Jose Lezcano has been given the mount on the son of Wekiva Springs, who stands at Double Diamond Farm in Ocala.
Perhaps the biggest challenger for the Florida-breds in the Woodford will be Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2). Since that prestigious win however, the 8-year-old has managed only two wins having taken the $73,000 Bonapaw Stakes at Fair Grounds in 2011 and the $62,000 My Frenchman Stakes over Florida-bred Ju Jitsu Jax two races back at Monmouth Park on Aug. 4. In his last start, Chamberlain Bridge was second, beaten just a head by Ben’s Cat in the Turf Monster Handicap at Parx. Trainer Bret Calhoun has named jockey Paco Lopez to ride Chamberlain Bridge, who will break from the three-hole.
Photo by Bill Denver