With the Saratoga training title in his sights, Chad Brown will saddle two runners on Saturday in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward.
At 5-1 on the morning line, the late-running Zivo is the shorter price of the uncoupled entry. Zivo enters the Woodward on a six-race winning streak that crescendoed with a last-to-first runaway victory in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap, which he won by three lengths over next-out Whitney winner Moreno, on July 5 at Belmont Park.
As a confirmed closer, pace might likely determine Zivo's chances in the Woodward.
"You can never predict (the pace)," Brown said. "I wish there was some more speed signed up for the race than what I see, but hopefully there will at least be an honest pace for him to run his race. When the gates open, you never really know who's going to break well, and what the jockeys have planned for the first part of the race. Hopefully (Moreno and Itsmyluckyday) engage each other sooner rather than later, and that will set it up for us."
Brown's other entrant is Last Gunfighter. The son of First Samurai has won nine of 18 starts, including six in a row from late 2012 into early 2013, and has hit the board in five others. In his latest start, Last Gunfighter finished fifth, beaten 10 3/4 lengths, in the Whitney.
"He got a good number in (the Whitney); he was very wide on both turns," Brown said. "He wasn't going to win the race, but I think he could have finished a lot closer than he did. He didn't disgrace himself at all finishing fifth. He lost a few lengths at every pole, so hopefully he can save some ground and pick up a piece of this, and who knows, maybe he's the one to grab them all at the end. He's training well enough that I believe he deserves another chance."
A year after pulling off an upset in the Woodward with Alpha, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping for a similar result with another Godolphin Racing-owned colt.
McLaughlin will send out Long River in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward. The chestnut son of 1992 Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer A.P. Indy is out of the Awesome Again mare Round Pond -- all Grade 1 winners.
"He has a Grade 1 pedigree, so to win a Grade 1 would be great," McLaughlin said. "It would put him in the stallion barn at Darley. That would be nice."
Long River won the Time for a Change to end his three-year-old season as well as the Evening Attire to open the 2014 campaign, both at Aqueduct, before finishing second by a neck as the favorite to Woodward contender Romansh in the Excelsior on March 22.
Since then, he was fifth in the Charles Town Classic, seventh in the Stephen Foster Handicao at Churchill Downs and fifth in the Monmouth Cup on July 27.
"We were in a little trouble and wide in that race, so he did run better than it looked like," McLaughlin said. "At Churchill he just didn't like the track, and he didn't run at all in Charles Town. It was a tough race but he's doing well, and we're hopeful."
Long River will race with blinkers for the first time in the Woodward, his 14th lifetime start.
"We feel like we've been a little disappointed in him. He trains great and he's a nice horse," McLaughlin said. "He's had excuses, but we're putting blinkers on and hope it makes him focus better and not be too keen in the race, because there's plenty of pace in there.
"Itsmyluckyday is putting blinkers on from the one hole and Moreno goes every time, so hopefully it'll just help us stalk in third or fourth and perform better. He started out the year great, and the last couple weren't that great."
Stephanoatsee will tackle Grade 1 company for just the second time in his career as part of a 10-horse field for the Woodward.
The Woodward will be the 18th lifetime start for Stephanoatsee and third since being transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito this spring. He was fourth in a one-mile allowance on June 28 at Belmont Park before rallying to be second by two lengths in a similar spot going 1 1/8 miles July 25 at Saratoga.
"I think he picked himself up again," Zito said. "Obviously, he was a horse with very good potential. Since he's gotten to Saratoga, he's done better. The first race we gave him at Belmont was pretty good. I think he's moving in the right direction, so you might as well go all the way and see how far he's moved up.
"Unfortunately, there was no pace last time and he still closed into it," Zito said. "That's always unusual for a horse to close into a slow pace. You hope for a bit more pace in here. You know Moreno, he's not going to rate. You just hope (Stephanoatsee) fires again.
"That's what I'm trying to do, trying to get a big win," he added. "He's a well-bred horse, obviously, and he's a nice horse to be around. He's the kind of horse that I always like to train. If I keep pushing him in the right direction, who knows?"
A five-year-old son of A.P. Indy out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, Stephanoatsee began his career with trainer Graham Motion and has tackled the likes of Alpha, Boisterous, Game On Dude, Richard's Kid and Willy Beamin over the years.
He has three wins, four seconds and a third with purse earnings of $286,600, his lone stakes victory coming in the 2012 Barbaro at Delaware Park. The same year, he was third in the Discovery Handicap and second in the Strub.
"I haven't been getting lucky with these post positions. I wish I was inside just to save some ground," Zito said. "Saratoga is not like some tracks where you're really at a disadvantage if you're outside. You have to have the horse, obviously, but he does have some credentials that he could do something good. If you look at it, he could do something good; that's what we're hoping for. He had kind of tailed off, but now I think he's getting back to what he used to be."