Clint Maroon wires the field in Woodhaven
by Ryan Martin
St. Elias Stables' Clint Maroon set a moderate tempo en route to a gate-to-wire win in Saturday's $100,000 Woodhaven, a 1/16-mile turf test for sophomores on Closing Day at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gelded son of Oasis Dream broke sharply under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and set a leisurely opening quarter of 25.69 seconds and a half in 51.17 with stablemate Empire of War tracking 1 ½ lengths behind in second.
At the top of the stretch, a rail-skimming Forty Under made a bold run from third position, but Clint Maroon had plenty left in the tank and drew off to win by four lengths in a time of 1:45.79 over an outer turf course rated yielding. Forty Under finished strong for second, 5 3/4-lengths in front of Empire of War.
Five Star General and Family Biz completed the full order of finish. Tybalt, Mount Travers and English Bee were scratched.
Ortiz said that going to the front was not the original plan for Clint Maroon.
"Our plan was to be second, but he broke out of there really sharp, so I took the lead," Ortiz said. "We went to 'Plan B' and it worked out well. We went slow fractions and he was going very relaxed. When I asked him to run, he responded very well.
"The horse is doing good, you can see that from his last two races," added Ortiz, Jr. "Todd [Pletcher] is a great trainer. He's [Clint Maroon] getting better and better."
The Woodhaven was Clint Maroon's stakes debut. He found the winner's circle in his prior two starts when breaking his maiden and defeating winners over the turf at Gulfstream Park.
"It went well. Clint Maroon broke on top and Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] took advantage of nobody else wanting to go to the lead," Pletcher's assistant trainer Byron Hughes said. "He rattled off some slow fractions and was able to pull away at the end. It was a nice win. I thought Empire of War ran a solid race as well coming off a long layoff. He should improve off this."
Off at 5-2, Clint Maroon returned $7.30 for a $2 win bet.
Manny Franco, aboard Forty Under, acknowledged the difficulty of making up ground off the slow pace. The Woodhaven was the first start back for last year's Grade 3 Pilgrim winner since racing sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.
"The pace was slow, and I really couldn't do anything. I was down inside and I had two horses to the outside of me, so I had to wait," Franco said.
Bred in Great Britain by Sahara Group, Clint Maroon is out of the El Prado broodmare Lady Aquitaine. The Woodhaven win enhanced Clint Maroon's career earnings to $112,995 after cashing a check for $55,000 from the victory. His lifetime record now sits at 5-3-0-1.