Undefeated Jack Christopher continues ascent in G1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun

June 8, 2022

ELMONT, N.Y. – Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun drew a field of six swift sophomores to sprint seven furlongs over Belmont’s main track, topped by undefeated rising star Jack Christopher.

Named for the iconic New York-based trainer who won five consecutive Belmont Stakes from 1982-86, the Woody Stephens has been won by subsequently crowned champion sprinters Smoke Glacken and Lost in the Fog, as well as Breeders’ Cup winners Bayern, Fly So Free and Is It True. Last year, a thrilling renewal saw Drain the Clock outlast eventual Champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior.

Owned by Jim Bakke, Gerry Isbister, Coolmore Stud and White BIrch Farm, Jack Christopher has yet to be tested in a trio of tries, winning by a combined total of 15 1/4-lengths. A romping winner of his six-furlong debut in August at Saratoga, the son of Munnings then won the Grade 1 Champagne as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Unable to contest the World Championships, he returned on the Kentucky Derby undercard in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile, where he ran away from Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Pappacap by 3 3/4-lengths.

Jose Ortiz, aboard for all three of his starts, will ride the Chad Brown-trained charge from the inside post.

“He’s doing fine right now,” Brown said. “He’s trained super at Belmont. I wasn’t looking to cut him back in distance, but that’s what is available right now. He’s a tough-minded horse and a smart horse. He takes his races and works very well.”

Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable’s Todd Pletcher-trained Wit was third in the Champagne, but boasts two New York graded stakes on his resume. The winner of last summer’s Grade 3 Sanford at The Spa opened his 3-year-old account with a determined win in the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Twice placed in Grade 1 company, he seeks to break through at the top level when he leaves post 3 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

“He’s been sharp,” Pletcher said. “He broke great in the Bay Shore and broke well in his two gate works we’ve had this year, so hopefully he’s got that behind him. We just want to make sure he breaks with the field and not compromise his chances like he did a couple of times last year. Jack Christopher is an awfully good horse at any distance, but we’re happy with our horse.”

Pletcher has also entered a second son of Into Mischief in My Racehorse Stable and Spendthrift Farm’s Provocateur. To be piloted by Luis Saez from post 6, the dual winner from six tries won the Hutcheson in March at Gulfstream Park and was second as the favorite in Belmont’s six-furlong Gold Fever last out on May 15 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

“It was a ground-saving trip in kind of an intimidating spot,” Pletcher said of the Gold Fever effort. “Irad said he just got in there and was a little reluctant to punch his way through. He just couldn’t quite get there in time.”

Mark Casse-trained Grade 2 winner Pappacap reopposes on Saturday for owner-breeder Rustlewood Farm, breaking from post 2 under Flavien Prat. The Steve Asmussen-trained duo of Grade 3 Gotham winner Morello [post 4, Joel Rosario] and Oaklawn allowance winner Chasing Time [post 5, Tyler Gaffalione], who adds blinkers, complete the lineup. 

The Woody Stephens is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s 13-race card which features a first post of 11:20 a.m. Eastern with the Belmont Stakes slated as Race 11 at 6:44 p.m.

National television coverage of Belmont Stakes Day will begin on FS2, where America’s Day at the Races will air from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. before coverage shifts to CNBC from 3 to 5 p.m. and NBC from 5 to 7p.m. America’s Day at the Races will then return to FS2 from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

Belmont Park Press Release

Photo: Jack Christopher, (SR Photo)

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