Stronach Stables’ Ontario-bred Shaman Ghost, the 2015 Queen’s Plate winner, surged to victory in a four-horse photo finish on Saturday and beat Mubtaahij by a head to steal the $600,000, Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Dual Grade 1 winner Frosted, favored at 2-5 in the field of nine, broke poorly and was all-out at the end but finished third by a head.
Shaman Ghost picked up his first Grade 1 win. The 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper took the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes in June at Belmont Park, but came down with an illness and was a flat fifth on July 9 in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, his start before the Woodward.
“The last race was a little disappointing,” winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “After the Brooklyn, he came down with a little bit of a nagging cough. It took him a while to get over it. It looked like he was training good up to it, and then was a little flat in the Suburban. The rail was pretty deep that day and he was stuck on it all the way around. I think a combination of the two, he got beat six lengths.
“We didn’t do a lot with him until we got up here. He seemed to perk up in Saratoga, which some of them do.”
After tracking from fifth behind a pace set by Stephen Foster Handicap winner Bradester, who went an opening quarter in :24.38, a half-mile in :48.43, Shaman Ghost rallied five wide on the final turn under jockey Javier Castellano. When Frosted drifted inward making his rally, Castellano shifted inside and his mount dove over gamely to find running room.
“[In the stretch, Javier] didn’t want to break his momentum,” Jerkens said. “He would have had to take hold of him to take him to the outside. He said, ‘I knew I had the horse, so I just went for it.’ He said he wanted to beat Frosted to the punch, and the only way to get the head on him was to duck down to the inside. He saw daylight and he took off.”
Jockey Joel Rosario said thought the win was Frosted’s early in the stretch.
“When I turned [into the stretch] I thought he was going home free,” Rosario said. “Just the last 20 yards, it looked like he tired a little.
“He was comfortable where he was. He normally comes off the pace and improves his position. He didn’t break sharp. When I’ve ridden him before, he liked to take his time. He made a nice run. He got a little bit wide but he seemed good. He just got a little tired at the end.”
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile race was 1:48.92.
The Oct. 8 Jockey Club Gold Cup could be next for Shaman Ghost, who returned $20, $8.50, and $3.10.
Mubtaahij paid $6.20 and $2.80, and Frosted returned $2.10.
Castellano called the effort from his mount “very impressive.”
“I am very happy and satisfied the way my horse ran today,” he said. “He cut the corners, saved ground on the first turn, and I could see how the race was developing on the backside. When I saw Frosted moving on the outside, I decided to go on the inside and split horses. The way [Shaman Ghost] did it, he was very impressive today.”