Live Oak Plantation's To Honor and Serve returned to top form Saturday to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward S. at Saratoga. To Honor and Serve will begin his stud career next spring at the Gainesway Farm. A stud fee will be announced later this year.
With cooler weather in upstate New York, To Honor and Serve dug in gamely in the stretch to outlast 4-5 favorite Mucho Macho Man for the victory. With Rule setting the early pace, To Honor and Serve was wide around the first turn, but still less than two lengths from the front. Still in the three-path on the final turn, the eventual winner loomed large coming into the stretch. Rule began to fade while Mucho Macho Man took up the chase. Despite his best efforts, To Honor and Serve held sway over his rival to hit the wire a neck in front. The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.56.
“I knew he had it in him,” winning trainer Bill Mott said. “He’s been training well, he’s a sound horse, and there’s no reason for him not to. I told my story the last time [in the Suburban] about how I thought the heat had him agitated, and he didn’t do very well in the 97 degrees that day. I think he just threw a real stinker, and he did come back today and prove he was a pretty darn good horse.”
I always known he had it in him. He showed up today. He put in a really good fight,” winning rider John Velazquez added. “As long as he relaxes (in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic), he'll be fine.”
“He’s established himself as a top handicap horse, and hopefully he’ll go on and finish the year out strong and go on to be a good sire,” Mott said.
To Honor and Serve won for the eighth time in 15 career starts. The $450,000 purse for the Woodward pushed his lifetime earnings to $1,778,840.