Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawczynski
The 2014 Wood Memorial has drawn eleven runners to compete for the
$1,000,000 purse and the 170 road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby points. The field contains only two graded stakes winners.
The Wood Memorial has a
great history with 11 past winners going on to win the Kentucky Derby, four of
them ended up taking the Triple Crown. However, the most recent to complete the
Wood to Kentucky Derby double was Fusaichi
Pegasus in the year 2000.
Since then, it is probably
most notable that America’s leading sire won the Wood Memorial in 2004. Tapit had
his greatest racing victory in the Wood when he won with a dazzling run from
That day, Tapit was given a
perfectly timed ride by Ramon Dominguez. He was conditioned by Michael
Dickinson who later gave up training and created the Tapeta racing surface.
Winchell Thoroughbreds owned Tapit during his brief racing career, in which he
was 6: 3-0-0 and earned $557,300.
Tapit now stands at
Gainesway Farm in Lexington, KY, for a fee of $150,000. In his first six crops
he produced 48 stakes winners, 29 graded stakes winner, 13 grade one winners,
six millionaires, and overall earnings of $53,800,000. Last weekend two of
Tapit’s stars impressed on the track when Untapable
romped in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Constitution won the Florida Derby.
Uncle Sigh and Samraat are
joined by the new shooter, Social Inclusion, as the top three contenders in the
Wood. The pace scenario that develops around these three will be critical to
the outcome of the race. Uncle Sigh and Samraat have both shown the versatility
to go to the lead or to run a stalking race. Social Inclusion has displayed
brilliant speed in his two races.
Samraat has done nothing wrong in his career with five wins in five
starts. I made the mistake of assuming that Samraat would not be able to win
the Gotham after working so hard in the Withers. I knew I was wrong as soon as
Samraat walked into the paddock. Samraat was a perfect picture of equine
fitness. He confidently pranced in the paddock with a muscled frame that pointed
to a powerful effort. If Samraat returns to the Aqueduct paddock with the same
kind of appearance, he will be very hard to beat.
Uncle Sigh entered the Withers and the Gotham as an inexperienced
New York-bred. He came out of those races with two second place finishes behind
Samraat. Uncle Sigh’s trainer Gary Contessa said, “He’s had two very good stake races, but two troubled trips both—in both
stake races.” Uncle Sigh drew an outside
post, which means jockey Corey Nakatani should be able to control the kind of
trip that his horse gets.
Contessa feels that his horse has what it takes to
win the big race, “You can't measure determination, and Uncle Sigh, he just has
the heart of a racehorse and he's a very, very determined athlete.”
Social Inclusion has been the buzz horse on the Derby trail since he scorched the
speedy Gulfstream Park track beating Honor Code by 10 lengths in an allowance
race. There has been talk of multi-millionaire dollar offers for the Manny
Azurpua trainee. Azurpua is seeking his first career win of a grade one stake. He
has won a grade two, a few grade threes, and got third in the 2006 Breeder’s
Cup Sprint. There is no question that Social Inclusion will be out on the lead
from post position 11. Uncle Sigh and Samraat are going to have to be careful
not to let Luis Contreras go wire to wire with the Florida invader.
The Question Marks
Kid Cruz was entered at the
last minute by Linda Rice. He broke his maiden in November on the Aqueduct main
track and most recently won the Private Terms at Laurel, rallying from last
place. Could this be a horse that could pick up the pieces if the race has a
hotly contested early pace?
Wicked Strong was a horse
who made his way on some early Derby contender lists off a third in the Remsen
behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince. His last two starts at Gulfstream were
disappointing. Will the return to New York bring out the best for this Jimmy
Noble Moon is one of only
two graded stakes winners in the field. After his January victory in the
Jerome, he ran into some physical problems. Trainer Leah Gyarmati has been very
careful with Noble Moon and said that she would not run him unless he was
ready. He won the Jerome on the lead, but made a big closing move to get third
behind Cairo Prince in the Nashua. Noble Moon’s versatility could serve him
well in the Wood. He will wear one bar shoe in the race.
Harpoon is a grey son of
the featured Wood Memorial winner, Tapit. Harpoon is trained by Todd Pletcher,
who has won the last two Woods with highly hyped horses. Pletcher is looking
forward to coming in to this year’s race under the radar. It took Harpoon four
tries to break his maiden at Gulfstream and he followed that with a very nice
second place finish a nose behind Vinceremos in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa. The
question marks come from his lackluster fifth place finish in the Gotham.
Kristo ships in to New York
form Santa Anita for trainer John Sadler. Kristo finished second to Midnight
Hawk in the Sham and third behind the heralded California Chrome in the San
Felipe. Sadler said that Kristo did not like being asked to come from behind.
Martin Garcia will come east to put Kristo on the early pace.
Los Borrachos is trained by
Bill Mott and that is always a plus. It took him four tries to break his
maiden, which he did at Aqueduct on March 8.
Schivarelli is unbeaten after two career wins on the Aqueduct inner track. Even though the last win was by 12 lengths, it came in a field of five on the mud. He seems overmatched in this grade one stake.
Effinex has not actually
won a race. He broke his maiden when he was moved from second to first through
disqualification in a New York-bred race.