OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Headed by Shadwell Stable’s undefeated Shagaf, a solid field of 3-year-olds looking to earn a berth in the Kentucky Derby appears likely for the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on Saturday, April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 1 1/8-mile Wood virtually guarantees its first and second-place finishers a starting spot in the May 7 “Run for the Roses,” offering 100 qualifying points to the winner as part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” system, 40 points to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
Shagaf, winner of the Grade 3 Gotham and 3-for-3 for trainer Chad Brown since breaking his maiden in November at the Big A, will likely be joined by one of two stablemates: Flexibility, fourth as the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Withers last time out, or My Man Sam, second to fellow Wood hopeful Matt King Coal in an optional claimer on March 6. Weather permitting, all three are scheduled to work Saturday morning at Belmont Park, Brown said today.
Set to run in the Wood as well are Treadway Stable’s Adventist, a steadily improving son of Any Given Saturday who most recently finished third in the Gotham; Cadeyrn, an 11-length maiden winner in February; the Todd Pletcher-trained Cards of Stone, 13-length winner of a one-mile optional claimer on March 14; Lady Sheila Stable’s Matt King Coal, making his stakes debut off an impressive optional claiming win around two turns; and Charles Fipke’s Tale of S’avall, looking to turn things around after disappointing efforts in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the 2015 Grade 1 Champagne.
Also under consideration are the Dale Romans-trained Cherry Wine, fourth to Cupid in the Grade 2 Rebel; recent maiden winner Dalmore; Outwork, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 in finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby for Pletcher; and the maiden Trojan Nation. Awesome Speed, nominated to both the Wood and the Bay Shore, is likely to start in the latter, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.
The Wood will be supported by four other graded stakes on the card, including the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap, the Grade 2 , $300,000 Gazelle, the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior and the Grade 3, $300,000 Bay Shore.
Dads Caps, winner of the past two editions of the Carter, will be going for a three-peat in this year’s running of the seven-furlong race. The 6-year-old millionaire has made two starts this year, setting the early pace and fading to finish ninth in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap on March 12 and finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Toboggan. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Dads Caps likely will be joined by stablemate Sassicaia, last-to-first winner of the Toboggan on January 30.
Multiple graded stakes winner Salutos Amigos will be making his Carter debut for owner-trainer David Jacobson and Southern Equine Stable, having successful defended his title in the Tom Fool with a dramatic late run for his first win of the year.
Also likely for the Carter are Tom Fool runner-up Always Sunshine; the Todd Pletcher-trained Anchor Down, disqualified to fourth from third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap last time out; Green Gratto, who in two starts this year finished third in the Toboggan and fourth in the Grade 3 General George at Laurel Park; General George runner-up Majestic Affair for trainer Chad Brown; and mid-Atlantic shipper Roxbury N Overton for trainer Ramon Preciado. Red Vine and Calculator are questionable.
Among those pointing toward the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle are Behrnik’s Bank, making her 3-year-old debut; the Chad Brown-trained duo of Clair de Lune, winner of two in a row, and Grade 2 Demoiselle heroine Lewis Bay; Repole Stable’s undefeated Clipthecouponannnie, who took the Franklin Square last time out; Busher winner Mo d’Amour, runner-up Dreams to Reality and fourth-place finisher Flora Dora; and Royal Obsession, most recently fourth in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandria at the Fair Grounds.
The seven-furlong Bay Shore is likely to feature Jimmy Winkfield winner Awesome Gent; Awesome Speed, fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth behind winner Mohaymon; graded stakes winner Cocked and Loaded, making his 3-year-old debut; King Kranz, third in the Jimmy Winkfield; Richie the Bull, third in the Grade 2 Swale last time out; the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Sallisaw, and Unified, impressive maiden winner in his debut at Gulfstream in February. Morning Fire, Never Gone South and Ready Dancer are questionable.
Probables for the 1 ¼-mile Excelsior are Haynesfield winner Good Luck Gus; Kid Cruz, who took the John B. Campbell at Laurel Park last time out; Madefromlucky, most recently third in the Stymie; Norumbega, looking to return to the winner’s circle for the first time since last year’s Grade 2 Brooklyn; and Turco Bravo, upset winner of the Stymie. Adirondack King, Backsideofthemoon and Our Caravan are questionable.