Not a problem: Yoshida wins first Grade 1 on dirt in Woodward Stakes
Report: USA, Saturday
Saratoga: Woodward Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (Grade 1) | 1m1f | dirt | 3yo+
Trainer Bill Mott was on a fact-finding mission.
In a year with no clear standout in the turf male ranks, the Hall of Fame trainer had a proven Grade 1 winner on turf in Yoshida.
While there were ample options in that division for the son of Heart's Cry, the fact there was no standout set to contest the Woodward Stakes, not to mention ample stud value to be gained, swayed Mott and his slate of owners to go ahead and see how the colt's talent translated onto the dirt.
In the middle of a cavalry charge that emerged at the top of the straight in the nine-furlong test, Yoshida put in a run that gave his team the best possible answer, one that has now sparked a happy quandary with regard to his Breeders' Cup plans for this season.
For the second time in as many weeks, a top-level turf performer has absconded with one of Saratoga's most historic dirt prizes. In his first try on the dirt, Yoshida looked every bit the natural as he surged up from behind the 14-runner field and galloped home with authority to best Gunnevera by two lengths.
Last weekend Catholic Boy become a Grade 1 winner on both surfaces when he returned to the dirt and won the Travers Stakes to go along with his Belmont Derby victory in July.
Yoshida hadn't tried dirt before the Woodward but his pedigree suggested he would be a candidate to do similar to Catholic Boy.
"Well, we got our answer," said Mott, who trains Yoshida for owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners.
"I had a wait-and-see attitude [about the switch from turf]. The horse had worked well on the dirt. As I said before, he's got a lot of pedigree for the dirt. His mother won the Ballerina here, and his sire is a son of Sunday Silence. But I don't think you ever really know how they'll run on a surface until you try them.
"Yoshida has been running so well on the turf, and he's a Grade 1 winner on the turf, so you can't say we made a mistake by not running him on the dirt. We were going to do it, it was just a matter of time, and right now there was no turf race that we had in mind in the next 30 days, so we thought, 'Let's do it.'"
Rider Joel Rosario said: "I was just a passenger. He was taking very nice to the dirt, and he liked it early on. Turning for home, he was there for me, and he kept going."
It was a Super Saratoga Saturday for Rosario, as he also won the other Grade 1 on the card, the Spinaway Stakes, on the Gary Contessa-trained Sippican Harbor.
The Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes went the way of the Flavien Prat-ridden Bellafina, saddled by former Newmarket trainer Simon Callaghan.
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