It’s an unusual return spot for a horse last seen winning the Belmont Stakes (G1), but Saturday’s $75,000 Woodchopper at Fair Grounds will serve as the comeback race for Sir Winston, Tracy Farmer’s homebred son of Awesome Again who was sidelined with an ankle injury following a one-length victory in the June 8 “Test of the Champion.”
The Woodchopper is also unique in that it’s scheduled for about a mile on the turf, a surface Sir Winston ran up the track over in his only prior attempt, a maiden event at Saratoga in his second career start.
“It’s (restricted to) 3-year-olds and we need to get him started somewhere,” said David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, earlier this month. “That’s the most logical spot to get him back.
“We’re looking for a good 4-year-old year with him and the way he’s been so far we have no complaints. It’s always exciting having the Belmont winner in the barn.”
A repeat of the wet weather which forced several stakes off the turf last Saturday would undoubtedly aid Sir Winston, but also Hog Creek Hustle. Second to eventual Preakness (G1) winner War of Will in the Lecomte (G3) last winter, the Vickie Foley trainee later won the Woody Stephens (G1) and narrowly missed in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1). He enters the Woodchopper off a fifth in the Phoenix (G2) and sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Among the more turf-oriented contenders are stakes winners Spectacular Gem and Marquee Prince, Grade 3 scorers Forty Under and Flying Scotsman, and the graded-placed Tracksmith and The Last Zip.
Earlier in the card, Mrs. Revere (G2) runner-up Dalika is the potential favorite in the $75,000 Pago Hop for 3-year-old fillies at about a mile on the turf, while Change of Control and Play On are among the leading contenders in the $75,000 Pan Zareta, an about 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares.