Florida-bred Bridgetown didn’t get the best start in the $150,000 Woodford Stakes (G3) Saturday at Keeneland, but in the end things turned out just fine as the Florida-bred went on to take his second stake in his last two races. The son of Speightstown had won the $100,000 Troy Stakes at Saratoga in his last start on Aug. 15.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for breeder Eugene Melnyk’s Melnyk Racing Stables which is based in Ocala, Fla., Bridgetown got off to an uncharacteristic slow start in the five and one-half furlong turf event. (A slow start for Bridgetown is one in which he is not immediately on the lead.) However, jockey Javier Castellano was unfazed and let the 5-year-old horse settle behind leaders Great Mills and Ginplay and just to the inside of Chamberlain Bridge as they went the first quarter-mile in a brisk :21.67.
“My horse didn’t break that sharp,” Castellano said. “I took my time on the backside. They went pretty fast in the first quarter mile.”
As the field went around the far turn, Castellano did not want to get boxed in on the rail so he took Bridgetown to the outside. As they turned for home, Gin Play fell out of contention while Great Mills began to pull away and had daylight on Bridgetown in second with Chamberlain Bridge still in pursuit on the outside. After passing the eighth pole, Bridgetown would not give in and as they came to the sixtheenth pole he began to pass Great Mills, eventually getting to the wire a length in front of him with Chamberlain Bridge another half-length back in third. Bridgetown stopped the clock in 1:02.55.
“It was a beautiful trip,” Castellano continued. “It worked out great for me. He settled beautifully behind the leaders and when I asked him he responded so well. He got it done.”
This is a beautiful place. It couldn’t be better. I love Keeneland. I have had a lot of fun, a lot of success. I’m looking forward to more.”
It was the ninth career victory for Bridgetown and somewhat unusual in that in seven of his previous eight triumphs he had been on or very near the lead. The only time Bridgetown had won coming from as far back as three lengths off the lead was in August of 2010 when he won the $70,000 Latham Stakes at Saratoga after being fifth, three and-a-half lengths off the pace setters.
Not having the early lead did not seem to concern Michael Dilger, Todd Pletcher’s assistant trainer at Keeneland.
“A race this short we thought Javier (Castellano) could do whatever he thought best,” Dilger said. “He knows the horse well; he’s ridden him plenty of times before. I think he rode a great race.”
Bridgetown earned $90,000 for the win and pushed his career earnings to $934,700 from 19 lifetime starts. Sent off as the odds-on favorite with 4-5 odds, Bridgetown paid $3.40 to win, $2.20 to place and $2.10 to show. Great Mills returned $3.60 and $2.60 while Chamberlain Bridge paid $2.20 to show.
Although the Woodford did not carry a “Win and You’re In” invitation to the Breeders’ Cup, Bridgetown is a likely candidate for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) to be run at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., on Nov. 3. Great Mills is another possibility for the race, but trainer Bret Calhoun said Chamberlain Bridge will not try to repeat his 2010 win in the Turf Sprint.
“I don’t think we will go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Calhoun said after the Woodford. “I don’t think [Santa Anita’s] downhill [turf] course would be to his liking. He’s been awful good to us. He’s still healthy and sound and we hope to be able to keep running.”
Photo by Coady