With the Kentucky Derby a little less than a month away we’re in the homestretch of Derby-prep season this weekend with the Wood Memorial from Aqueduct – New York’s premier prep-race on the road to Louisville. A few solid stakes races on the undercard so let’s take a look.
Aqueduct Racetrack – Race 6 – The Bay Shore (Grade 3)
A small field of 5 horses assembled for this running of the Bay Shore. Usually the horses who run in this race are horses who have fallen just off the Derby trail and are trying shorter distances.
Call Paul seems to have had his future as a sprinter / miler chosen before many of these and he’s my selection here. Trainer Jason Servis is fresh off a win in the Florida Derby. Call Paul won the Swale at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start beating a field of 11 and I think he’ll handle these. I like Much Better to give a good account of himself with the speed from the rail on what may be a muddy track. He will be the one they’re trying to chase down in the stretch.
Mind Control – I love the move to take him off the Derby trail and focus on sprint distances. I think it’s the right move but I just think he caught a tough field here and will prove third best.
Aqueduct Racetrack – Race 7 – The Excelsior (Grade 3)
This year’s running of the Excelsior is a fun little race and it’s the epitome of what a grade 3 race should look like. It features the return of our Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, Discreet Lover. He’s facing a few shippers and a few up and comers.
My choice here probably isn’t the up-and-comer most of the betting public is going to go with. I’m picking Nicodemus to upset the Excelsior in his very first graded stakes try. Nicodemus has run speed figures in the 90’s in two starts on a sloppy track (which he’ll likely get Saturday). Nicodemus looks like a horse with a future and the future is NOW.
Shivermetimbers will also likely be a square price here off a third-place finish in the Styme last out. Should be poised for a late run. I’ll take likely favorite Discreet Lover to run a too-late third.
Aqueduct Racetrack – Race 9 – Carter Handicap (Grade 1)
The Carter was won last year by Army Mule. A horse who ran a huge speed figure only to never be seen on a racetrack again. Hopefully this year’s winner has longer staying power. I have a very tough time looking past World of Trouble here; who’s coming off two dominant wet track wins with some formidable speed figures.
Skyler’s Scramjet is the only horse in the race who has a prayer of running with him early but he doesn’t seem to have the staying power World of Trouble has. World of Trouble’s main rivals: Identity Politics and new-to-sprinting Vino Rosso both need a fast pace to produce their best run and I don’t think either one will get enough pace.
I like Life in Shambles and Timber Ghost to vie for the runner up positions here.
Aqueduct Racetrack – Race -10 – The Wood Memorial (Grade 2)
This year’s running of the Wood Memorial ended up drawing a solid field of 3-year-olds battling for a chance at the run for the roses.
My pick here is Tacitus who closed into a fast pace to win the Tampa Bay Derby in his most recent start at 9-1. His odds will be shorter today but he should get a similar pace setup. At this moment, Tacitus is my pick to win the Kentucky Derby so I’m hoping he gives a good showing in the Wood Memorial.
I like Final Jeopardy to run second at 8-1 morning line. Trainer, Jason Servis just won the Florida Derby last week and his horses have all been running really well. At these odds he offers value here, has the breeding to stay the distance and the class to prove he belongs.
Grumps Little Tots is my longshot pick to run third at 30-1. Hailing from the same barn as Final Jeopardy, Jason Servis has been pointing him to this race and employs top rider Jose Lezcano to ride. He may be an upset special.