Kentucky-bred Tracksmith, who finished 2 1/2 lengths behind English Bee in the 2019 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, captured the Woodchopper Stakes December 28 at Fair Grounds. The field included Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston. Since finishing 4th in Virginia’s Derby, Tracksmith also has seconds in both the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes and Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs.
Heading into the first turn of the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes, no one could blame jockey Adam Beschizza for getting a sinking feeling.
Breaking from post 10 in a field of 12 with Calumet Farm’s Tracksmith, Beschizza had the misfortune of being carried about seven paths wide and losing some momentum when 31-1 shot Irish Heatwave drifted out on the turn.
Fast forward to the second and final turn of the mile turf test at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and Beschizza and Tracksmith were four wide.
Yet even after all that ground loss, Tracksmith would not be denied in the stretch as the son of Street Sense forged to the front and held on to notch a half-length victory for trainer Joe Sharp in the Dec. 28 two-turn stakes for 3-year-olds.
“It was a very messy beginning, but we’re lucky he’s a strong traveling horse and he gathered himself,” Beschizza said. “He put himself in a nice, solid position after that. He’s very competitive in these stakes and Joe prepped him very well. It was a solid performance in a salty field.”
At the other end of the spectrum was Tracy Farmer’s Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Sir Winston. Making his first start since his victory in the June 8 final leg of the Triple Crown, the son of Awesome Again was bumped at the start and never seemed to handle the yielding turf. He trailed in 12th throughout and finished nearly 10 lengths behind Tracksmith.
“He’s fine,” trainer Mark Casse said. “I was hoping to get firmer turf for him, but we’ll see where we go from here. The problem with coming back now is that there are not many options for running him and I just wanted him to get a race under his belt.”
Casse was uncertain about what’s next for the Belmont Stakes winner.
A stakes winner on a synthetic surface, Sir Winston was ninth in his only other appearance on turf, which came in his second career start.
For Tracksmith ($8.80), the 3-1 favorite, the Woodchopper came on the heels of a runner-up finish in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3T) Nov. 9 at Churchill Downs.
It was the fourth win in 10 starts for a colt bred by Cobalt Investments and Godolphin, and pushed his earnings to $321,433 while covering the mile in 1:39.07.
Out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Hot Water, Tracksmith was bought for $130,000 from the Ricehorse Stable consignment at the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
“This is one of my top five favorite horses I’ve ever had in my barn,” Sharp said. “He’s just a honest horse. That’s all you can ask for. (Calumet owner) Brad Kelley and his team have been very patient with him and it’s paid dividends.”
The Woodchopper featured a 1-2 finish for Calumet as Flying Scotsman, trained by Jack Sisterton, finished in a dead-heat for second with Candie A. Baker’s Spectacular Gem. Darrell Yates, Evelyn Yates and Kevin Kuta’s Clint Maroon was another half-length back in fourth.
Also on the Fair Grounds card, the $75,000 Pan Zareta Stakes went to Klein Racing’s Play On ($9.60), a Country Day filly trained by Brad Cox, and the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes went to Heider Family Stables’ Zofelle ($7.60), a Zoffany filly who is trained by Brendan Walsh.