Wood Memorial Preview: Shagaf Tries to Remain Perfect on his Way to Kentucky

Shagaf wins Gotham - Photo credit: Susie Raisher/NYRA
Susie Raisher/NYRA

The Pace Scenario

Speed – Matt King Coal, Outwork

Stalkers – Shagaf, Adventist, Tale of S’avall, Dalmore

Closers – Trojan Nation, Flexibility

Matt King Coal and Outwork are two serious contenders with early speed, but everyone else won’t be near the early lead.  I also seriously doubt these two will hook up in a speed duel, so if they are good enough they could run one-two on the front end.  Stalkers should still be in good shape though while the closers might have a little trouble making up ground.


#1 Shagaf – Winner of the Gotham Stakes and an undefeated three for three so far in his young career.  The problem with Shagaf has been the fact his races have come back very slow, but there is reason to believe he’s going to improve with added ground and experience.  He’s the deserving favorite and the one to beat.

#2 Adventist – This seems to be the wise guy horse, but what I’ve noticed over the years is the wise guy horse never seems to win.  I’ve never been a big fan of his, and honestly don’t feel like I’ll start being a fan on Saturday.  He has some proving to do as far as I’m concerned.

#3 Trojan Nation – Basically has no shot in this race.

#4 Tale of S’avall – Came back off a layoff in the Tampa Bay Derby and didn’t run too poorly, but still wasn’t close to the winners.  Should improve off that last race, but I can’t make a case for him doing enough to win in this spot.

#5 Flexibility – He was developing into a sure fire prospect before an incredibly disappointing effort in the Withers Stakes last time out.  To add more trouble for him the horse that he built his resume on just barely losing to, Mohaymen, was beaten badly last week in the Florida Derby.  I still think Flexibility can recover and run better in this one, but I’m questioning his talent.

#6 Matt King Coal – Very intriguing prospect…the only issue I see is he might be a tad late to the party.  Matt King Coal made his three year old debut the day after Shagaf won the Gotham Stakes, and looked great winning an allowance race while running a much faster time than Shagaf run in the Gotham the previous day.  So is Matt King Coal 100% ready for big time competition now?  I think the answer is yes, but I would feel a lot better about him if he just had one more prep race under his belt.  We’ll see if he can overcome the lack of experience.

#7 Dalmore – Finally got the maiden broke last time out at Santa Anita, but there isn’t a lot of hope for him in this spot.  He’ll have to hope the 3 year olds in California completely overmatch the 3 year olds in New York.  While I do think they are better…I don’t think they are THAT MUCH better.

#8 Outwork – Loved his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby as he did all the dirty work in the race while still fighting every step of the way to finish a close second to Destin.  Lets not forget that the race was his first against any kind of competition whatsoever, so he handed the jump up in class very well.  I’d love to see him get more of a stalking position today with his outside post.  If he can ration some of that early speed he can win this race and move on to the Kentucky Derby as a legitimate player.

Bubble Watch

Who is already in: Shagaf is in the Kentucky Derby no matter what happens.

Who is on the bubble: Adventist, Flexibility, and Outwork need top 3 or 4 finish to make it into the Kentucky Derby Starting gate.

Who really needs to win: Trojan Nation, Tale of S’avall, Matt King Coal, and Dalmore all need wins or second place finishes to make it to the Kentucky Derby.

Top Picks and Plays

I’m not getting fancy with this one as I think there are four logical contenders: Outwork, Shagaf, Matt King Coal, and Flexibility.  I really think Shagaf will run better than ever,  but was too impressed with Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby to not bet him back next time out.  So my top pick will be Outwork with Shagaf, Matt King Coal, and Flexibility on all exotic tickets.   Good luck everyone!

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