The Jack Christopher Comeback Tour makes its next stop at the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, setting down once again on a Triple Crown undercard race.
The seven-furlong Woody Stephens will be one of the eight Grade 1s on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes undercard. It’s not to be confused with the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile that was on the Kentucky Derby undercard five weeks ago.
Jack Christopher won the Pat Day by nearly four lengths, punctuating his return to racing for the first time in six months. The enforced sideline stint came after Jack Christopher suffered a stress fracture in his left shin.
This explains why Jack Christopher isn’t running the “Test of the Champion” — the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes. It also explains why he didn’t Run for the Roses in May and why trainer Chad Brown is running the colt in the Woody Stephens.
Brown didn’t want the reduced distance
Brown dialed Jack Christopher in for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he would have been the favorite. The heart of the Kentucky Derby trail awaited after that. But Brown scratched him the week of the early November Breeders’ Cup due to that stress fracture.
“He’s doing fine right now,” Brown told the New York Racing Association. “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.”
Even with Brown’s reluctance to cut Jack Christopher back under a mile, the Woody Stephens should provide the perfect consolation prize for the son of sprinter Munnings. Jack Christopher could thrive as a miler.
Jack Christopher owns this distance
He won his six-furlong debut by 8 3/4 lengths last August at Saratoga. He graduated from there to the one-mile, Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, which produced a 2 3/4-length victory. Put it all together and Jack Christopher is undefeated by a combined 15 1/4 lengths.
But the Woody Stephens, named after the Hall of Fame trainer who won an incomprehensible five consecutive Belmont Stakes from 1982-86, can produce upsets. Take last year, when 15/2 Drain the Clock held off even-money favorite Jackie’s Warrior. That gave the eventual Champion Male Sprinter one of only two defeats he suffered last year.
Or take 2019, which produced 19/1 Hog Creek Hustle beating 17.20/1 Nitrous and 15.50/1 Borracho. Bettors looking for 3.30/1 favorite Mind Control found him in eighth. Bettors holding those three board-hitters on a $1 trifecta cashed tickets worth $3,140.50.
Grade 1 Woody Stephens/Belmont Park
Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)
- Jack Christopher, 1/2 (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown)
- Pappacap, 10/1 (Flavien Prat/Mark Casse)
- Wit, 7/2 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Todd Pletcher)
- Morello, 9/2 (Joel Rosario/Steve Asmussen)
- Chasing Time, 20/1 (Tyler Gaffalione/Steve Asmussen)
- Provacateur, 10/1 (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher)
This year’s upset candidates include Todd Pletcher’s Wit, who finished third in the Champagne after winning two New York graded stakes, both Grade 3s.
“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,” Pletcher said. “Jack Christopher is an awfully good horse at any distance, but we’re happy with our horse.”
Elsewhere, you find one-time Derby points leader Pappacap, along with the Steve Asmussen duo of Grade 3 Gotham winner Morello and Oaklawn allowance winner Chasing Time.