Although the Bill Mott barn has started off slowly this fall at Aqueduct (1-for-19), stable star Cody’s Wish will be heavily favored to add to the barn’s win total on Sunday in the $250,000 Vosburgh (G2).
Won last year by the Mott-trained Elite Power, who went on to be named champion sprinter, the seven-furlong Vosburgh, despite being a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, will instead serve as Cody’s Wish’s final tune-up for a title defense in the Dirt Mile (G1).
Cody’s Wish got his 2023 campaign off to a fabulous start with powerful victories in the Churchill Downs (G1) and Metropolitan H. (G1). However, hopes of turning the Godolphin homebred into a potential Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) candidate ended when the five-year-old was beaten 10 lengths into third in the nine-furlong Whitney (G1).
“One turn and seven [furlongs] to a mile is good for him,” Mott said. “We wanted to see if he could win the Whitney – it’s a very important race and if he could win the Met Mile and the Whitney, those are two very big races.”
The two most logical upset candidates of the five opposing Cody’s Wish are the Mott-trained High Oak, third best in the Forego (G1) behind Gunite and Elite Power, and the the Grade 2-placed Accretive, who enters off back-to-back allowance wins at Saratoga for Chad Brown.
Later in the card, the Mott-trained six-year-old mare War Like Goddess will seek to defend her title against the boys in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) over 1 1/2 miles.
War Like Goddess was the first female in nearly four decades to win the Turf Classic when scoring by 2 3/4 lengths as an odds-on choice last season. She subsequently finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) to Rebel’s Romance, but both she and that Godolphin homebred enter the Turf Classic off back-to-back losses.
Sixth in the New York (G1) over a too-short 1 1/4 miles, War Like Goddess was most recently second by a neck in the 12-furlong Glens Falls (G2), a race she won last year and evidence perhaps she has lost a step.
Rebel’s Romance, meanwhile, never factored in his season debut last March in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and last time lost his rider after clipping heels in the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga, an excusable effort.
Also lining up for the Turf Classic are division mainstays Astronaut, Adhamo, Soldier Rising, and Pioneering Spirit.
A competitive field was assembled for the $400,000 Woodward (G2) for older horses over 1 1/8 miles. The field of 10 includes European invader Algiers, last seen finishing second in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March having previously won the first two rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2).
“He’s come out of his break really well,” assistant trainer Ed Crisford said. “He’s big, strong and moving great and he has great attitude. He’s training just as good if not better than in Dubai over the winter. This will be his first run since Dubai, so I’m sure he’ll improve for the run.”
More familiar to American fans are Suburban (G2) winner Charge It, a distant fourth in the Whitney last out; recent Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) third Tyson; and Law Professor, an impressive winner of the Queens County S. and Excelsior S. in his last two trips over the Big A main track.
A sentimental choice is Grade 1 veteran Zandon, runner-up this season in the Westchester (G3), Met Mile, and Whitney. The Woodward is the four-year-old’s first start since the death of his breeder, Brereton C. Jones, the former governor of Kentucky.
A field of six fillies and mares will dash 6 1/2 furlongs in the $250,000 Gallant Bloom H. (G2). Contenders include Caramel Swirl, Beguine, Sterling Silver, and the three-year-old Undervalued Asset.