Seeing Union Rags finish third in the Florida Derby
(G1) made me think of the 1973 Wood
Memorial (video), which was one of the
greatest Derby prep upsets in history. Secretariat had been riding a 10 race win streak, that did include the much disputed
disqualification in the 1972 Champagne Stakes. Big Red, who was suffering from
a large abscess in his bottom lip, was never in contention in the Wood Memorial
as he finished a lackluster third behind Sham and his stable mate Angle Light
who won the race.
Secretariat entered the
1973 Wood having won the Bay Shore on March 17, the Gotham on April 7, and the
Wood itself was run on April 21.
Today the seven furlong Bay Shore is on the Wood undercard. Then the
Wood was run a mere two weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Sham won the Santa
Anita Derby on March 31, just three weeks before the Wood and also went on to
Secretariat and eight
other horses went from losing the Wood Memorial to victory in the Derby. Omaha
not only won the Derby but also swept the Triple Crown in 1935. That group
includes the filly Genuine Risk (1980), Monarchos (2001), and Funny Cide
Eleven winners of the
Wood Memorial have won the Derby with the first one being Triple Crown winner
Gallant Fox in 1930. There were four other Triple Crown winners: Count Fleet
(1943), Assault (1946), Secretariat (1973), and Seattle Slew (1977). Fusaichi Pegasus was the most recent to
win the Derby in 2000.
Twenty Wood Memorial
winners were named champions. The
list begins with Gallant Fox in 1930, and ends with Easy Goer in 1989. Five
other Wood runners also went on to be champions. Hall of Famers lead the victor’s list with jockey Eddie
Arcaro hitting the winner’s circle nine times and Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons
training seven. Amongst active trainers Nick Zito has won the Wood three times,
most recently with Bellamy Road in 2005.
Almost all of the Wood
Memorial winners have gone on to run in the Kentucky Derby with 23 of them
ending up as the Run to the Roses favorite. Native Dancer (1953), Bold Ruler
(1957), Damascus (1967), and Easy Goer (1987) make an illustrious list of
beaten Derby favorites that won this Aqueduct race as their final prep.
Here is the field for
the 88th running of the Wood Memorial:
Alpha has won both of his Aqueduct inner track stakes starts in 2012. In both the Count Fleet and the Withers
(G3) the Bernardini colt has won from off the pace in impressive fashion. Alpha currently has $180,000 in graded
earnings, which is 20th ranked. Jockey Ramon Dominguez plans to be back riding for the
Wood. At Tuesday’s NTRA
teleconference Dominguez said that,
“Alpha has a high cruising speed that will help him get the distance and his
gallop outs have been strong.”
Trainer Nick Zito will send out Casual Trick in the Wood, a race which Zito
has won three times. Casual Trick is a $450,000 Bernardini colt that has only
won his maiden race. He has finished second in the Gulfstream Park Derby behind
Reveron, the Florida Derby (G1) place horse. Since then he has two very poor
races at Gulfstream. Zito said, “This
one has been an up and down deal.” Casual Trick had some minor surgery to
correct some breathing problems caused by a flipped palate.
My Adonis enters the Wood as another horse in need of earnings. The Kelly Breen runner
currently has $130,000 in graded stakes purses, which at this time ranks him in
26th place. His last
two races have been very determined efforts with a third in the Holy Bull (G3)
and a second behind Hansen in the Gotham (G3). The Pleasantly Perfect
colt zipped four furlongs in 47.12, fastest of 17 at the distance. “The horse worked great, and he came
out of it great,” said trainer Kelly Breen. “He’ll tell us his story in the Wood.
If he jumps up and runs a big race, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Teeth of the Dog enters this grade one race off of a
maiden victory at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4. This son of Bluegrass Cat, who is trained by Michael Matz,
has been working steadily at Palm Meadows in Florida.
Street Life is a late developing colt who has won
his last two starts on the Aqueduct inner track. Trained by Chad Brown his most recent victory came from off
the pace in the Broad Brush Stakes. That win came on the heels of a maiden
special weight at a distance of ground. The Street Sense colt recently breezed
a half-mile in 48.10, which was the second fastest of 43 at the distance over Belmont
Park's training track.
Undefeated Gemologist runs for the WinStar Farm
team and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Those are the same connections of Super Saver that won the 2010 Kentucky
Derby. Gemologist, a son of Tiznow, won all three of his starts in 2011
including the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. He came back this year with an
impressive allowance win at Gulfstream. Gemologist is currently ranked 4th
in AndyScoggin's Derby Top 10.
“We came in with high hopes this
winter, as he was undefeated as a 2-year-old with two wins at Churchill Downs,”
said Pletcher. “Because his return was delayed, he might have been a little
under the radar for some, but certainly not for us. From a conditioning
standpoint, I thought he got exactly what he needed. Hopefully, he continues moving
Gemologist needs a big
performance in the Wood to make the Derby field as he is currently ranked 37th
in graded stakes earnings according to Horse
Racing Nation with $103,855.
The new Sagamore Farms has entered Tiger Walk in the hopes of getting
another Wood victory for the Maryland farm. The old Sagamore won with Native
Dancer (#1 in HRN’s Top 10 Gray Horses) . In the Withers and the Gotham Tiger Walk had competitive third and fourth
The Lumber Guy has only run two times but both have
resulted in dominating victories.
He won his maiden race at Aqueduct by over nine lengths and then went to
Laurel to win the Miracle Wood Stakes by four. He is clearly the hunch bet with
Lumber in his name and a Wood win already. Trainer Michael Hushion says, “He’s just a man, kind of at
the level where you’d like them to be: strong, a little bit of a bully, and he
eats real good. That’s the way you want a horse like that to be, but he’s not
over the top either. He’s a nice horse to train.”