Race of the Week 2017

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A New York State of Racing

2014 Wood Memorial: Contenders and Pretenders

Samraat Gotham (2) 615 X 400
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 last place.  
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.
The Contenders
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 Jerkens trainee?
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.
The Pretenders
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. 



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Older Comments about 2014 Wood Memorial: Contenders and Pretenders...

Barring any further scratches or funny business in the paddock, I'm going with an 8-11 straight exacta, and a 8-3/10/11 tri and super wheel.
Schivarelli #7 " get paid baby "w/the best jockey in the country....
Crummy about the 1, but I had heard that he didn't have many works.
I am in giggles over the notes and I will figure out who Strong Mandate is in the Wood. thanks. As of last night, I like 11, 3,4,1,6.
sticking with Noble Moon and Harpoon
Dang it...I'll go with Wicked Strong now.
that's too bad. But that just makes the Ark Derby that much more interesting.
Kid Cruz will scratch from Wood per tweet from @DRFGrening; has been nursing "sore shoulder" but MAY enter Arkansas Derby. Stay tuned!
Wicked Strong Mandate sounds like a salty Derby exacta.
I like Kid Cruz and Harpoon but that is only if there is a strong pace upfront. Hoping the two can pick up the pieces down the stretch and like the possible odds on them.
Ive come up with 5 horses that can win(1,6,8,10,11) Im taking the 10(uncle sigh) 1st@2nd in exactas @ tris' with the 1,6,8,11. also i'll use the 2,3,7 in the 3rd spot in the tri. I Love Social Inclusion but i am really worried that he might Bounce like a SUPERBALL LOL
I'll look to your question marks for my top pick ... I like Kid Cruz.
You mean Wicked Strong?
I give up already. My math is just not on point tonight! The 2nd play would be $24. I'ma shut up now on calculations.
But if you key Strong Mandate over the others, that's $6 for 10 cents or Kristo/Strong Mandate over the others is $12. Think that's where I was meaning to go with this whole waste of time. Yay alcohol!
$36. Sorry, no work tomorrow so I drank a bit tonight.
* for 10 cents
What that means is a 6 horse super box costs $24. If Wicked Strong wins like I think he will and Linda's horse picks up some pieces late, like I think he will, you will more than get your $24. Granted it won't be the same payout as the Lexington last year, but it will take a big chunk out of that plane ticket. If you like Noble Moon or Harpoon, I don't know what to tell ya.
Well, I can tell you at this stage I'm strongly considering keying Strong Mandate. It'll be over Kristo, Samraat, Social Inclusion, Uncle Sigh, & Kid Cruz (love Linda). Just haven't figured out the specs yet, but since you probably won't be keying Strong Mandate on top, I don't think it matters. #2013 Lexington Stakes super
Awaiting the super. Have to cover a plane ticket, thanks.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


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