LEXINGTON, Ky.—Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg Limited’s Golden Pal turned in another dazzling Keeneland performance by cruising to a 1½-length victory in the 26th running of the $350,000 Woodford (G2) Presented by FanDuel for 3-year-olds and up.
Trained by Wesley Ward and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Golden Pal covered the 5½ furlongs on a firm turf course in a stakes-record 1:01.39. With the victory, Golden Pal became the fifth horse to win the Woodford in back-to-back years. Ward also won this race in 2014 with No Nay Never.
As he has done in his three previous Keeneland starts, Golden Pal was quickest out of the gate and led the field through an opening quarter-mile in :21.25 with Gear Jockey in closest pursuit.
Golden Pal maintained a clear edge to the top of the stretch when he found another gear, blasting through the half-mile in :43.42 to widen his advantage and coast to the finish while under no pressure.
Now four-for-four at Keeneland with other victories in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), 2021 Woodford and 2022 Shakertown (G2), Golden Pal improved his overall record to 12-8-2-0.
The 4-year-old Florida-bred is a son of Uncle Mo out of the Midshipman mare Lady Shipman. Saturday’s $176,700 check increased his career earnings to $1,815,131.
The Keeneland sales graduate returned payoffs of $2.74, $2.42 and $2.10. Oceanic rallied for second under Julien Leparoux to return $6.86 and $4.58, finishing a nose in front of Artemus Citylimits, who paid $3.04 to show under Tyler Gaffalione.
It was another half-length back to Bad Beat Brian and Gear Jockey, who finished in a dead heat for fourth and were followed in order by Charcoal, All in Sync, County Final and Cadamosto (IRE).
Quotes from the $350,000 Woodford (G2) Presented by FanDuel
Wesley Ward (trainer of winner Golden Pal): “Every time he runs, I get kind of nervous because he’s so exceptional. We’re real excited now to get on to the Breeders’ Cup. We got our prep into him here on his home track at Keeneland, and 28 days from now we’ll be ready to roll.”
On Golden Pal’s ability to break so easily from the gate: “It’s just like any other great athlete in any sport. Of all the horses I’ve ever trained – and fast ones – he’s just unbelievable, just an extreme talent. The athleticism he has; he’s just like a cat when he moves for such a big colt. He’s got a brilliant mind to him as well. I really look forward to what he’s going to be as a stallion. He’s so smart in the barn, so quick and agile – I really look forward to his babies here.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (winning jockey): “He’s a fast horse. He’s an amazing horse. He’s something else. I’m just happy to be on him. Thanks, Wesley and the owners and everybody involved for letting me ride this horse. He loves this track. It’s home for him.”
Julien Leparoux (rider of runner-up Oceanic): “I had a good trip. The horse tried very hard. We had a nice clean trip; we were just second best today. He ran his race, a big race for him. The horse is doing good right now. It did him good mentally and he feels good out there by himself.”
Jordan Blair (trainer of Oceanic): “I would say that effort puts him in the Breeders’ Cup. It is nearly impossible to beat Golden Pal but you can’t win it if you’re not in it. I thought (Oceanic) would be a little closer to the front, but they were going so fast and Golden Pal was doing it so easy.”
On being far back: “The first 100 yards I was a little concerned, but I knew the jockey still had horse and at that point I was cheering for second.”
Tyler Gaffalione (rider of third-place finisher Artemus Citylimits): “The race kind of went to our expectations. Golden Pal went out there and set the tone. My horse tracked coming in the stretch. He put in a good run but wasn’t enough to get there today.”
Racing continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 1 p.m. and features three “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge races with the headliner being the $600,000 Juddmonte Spinster (G1) for fillies and mares, featuring defending champion Letruska and multiple Grade 1 winner Malathaat.
Keeneland Press Release
Photo by Coady Photography