by Brian Bohl
Yoshida answered questions about his ability on dirt in definitive fashion, rallying from the outside in the final furlong to surge to a two-length win against a full field of 14 in the 65th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Making his main track debut after 10 previous starts on turf, Yoshida stayed off the early speed as Leofric and Rally Cry dueled up front, with the former leading the field through an opening quarter-mile in 24 seconds and the latter gaining the edge for the half-mile in 47.69 in the third of four graded stakes on the 12-race card.
Under Joel Rosario, Yoshida stayed to the inside on the backstretch before being moved out nearing the final turn. In the stretch, Yoshida continued to go wide, surging past Leofric and Rally Cry in the final eighth and outkicking 5-2 Gunnevera, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.94.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, Heads of Plains Partnes and SF Racing, Yoshida now has won a Grade 1 on both turf and dirt in his 4-year-old campaign, adding to his victory in the Old Forester Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
"Well, we got our answer. I had a wait and see attitude. The horse had worked well on the dirt. As I said before, he's got a lot of pedigree for the dirt," said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who won the Woodward for the fourth time and first since To Honor and Serve in 2012. "This was a pretty impressive run, actually. I don't think you ever really know how they'll run on a surface until you try them. [Winstar's] Elliot Walden has been wanting to try it for a long time. We talked about it and 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 at the opportune 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.'"
The well-traveled Japanese-bred son of Heart's Cry rebounded from two off the board finishes, including a fifth-place effort in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap on August 11 at the Spa in his first effort since running fifth in the Group 1 Queen Anne on June 19 at Royal Ascot.
Off at 6-1, Yoshida paid $14.40 on a $2 win wager. He earned millionaire status with the victory, improving his career bankroll to $1,289,700.
"He went very nice," said Rosario, who won three graded stakes in a row after piloting Raging Bull in the Grade 3 Saranac in Race 9 and Sippican Harbor in the Grade 1 Spinaway in Race 10. "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. Like I said, I was just a passenger. All my thanks to Bill Mott, I'm glad I won the race for him, and that he gave me the opportunity. This is a nice horse."
Gunnevera, trained by Antonio Sano, hit the wire a nose in front of Leofric for second, marking the first time he finished on the board in a stakes since running third in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on January 27 at Gulfstream Park.
Sano claimed foul against Yoshida for alleged interference in the stretch, but the claim was dismissed by the stewards.
"My horse ran good but, if you look, in the last turn, that horse [Yoshida] bumped us and pushed us wide - 10 wide - and it was just impossible to win [from there]. It was a good race, but that [made the difference]," Sano said.
The Brad Cox-trained Leofric, off at 19-1, finished in the top three for the ninth consecutive race.
Rally Cry, Patch, Term of Art, Hence, Tapwrit, Sunny Ridge, Zanotti, Kurilov, Discreet Lover, Seeing the Soul and Sunny Ridge completed the order of finish.