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Wood Memorial Preview: Last Chance for Derby Points in New York
Risk Taking winning the Withers (Credit: NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

Wood Memorial Preview: Last Chance for Derby Points in New York

OZONE PARK, NY – The 96th running of the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) is set to go this Saturday at Aqueduct. A field of 9 will contest this year’s running that features several horses looking to continue along the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail.

Offering 100-40-20-10 Derby points to the top four finishers, the Wood is slated for an approximate post time of 5:58 PM ET and will be part of three Derby Prep races this weekend, including the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) from Santa Anita Park.

Leading the charge is Risk Taking, who won the Withers Stakes (G3) over this track in his last start. The Chad Brown trainee has worked steadily since and has already proven to be well-suited for this 1 1/8-mile distance. He drew post 4 and will have Irad Ortiz Jr. up for the ride.

Another New York prep winner entered here is Weyburn, who upset the Gotham Stakes (G3) going a one-turn mile in his last start. His pedigree suggests that he’ll be even better going longer, which makes this the perfect spot for him. He’ll break from post 8 with Trevor McCarthy once again in the saddle.

The up-and-comer to watch is Prevalence, who ships to New York after impressively winning 2 straight at Gulfstream Park. This will be the Brendan Walsh trainee’s first try against stakes company, but he comes into this event very highly regarded. He’ll need a first- or second-place finish to make the Derby gate and will try to get the job done breaking from post 6 with Tyler Gaffalione.

“There were a bunch of horses in that (debut) race being touted,” Walsh said. “A lot of them have come back and run well, which showed that the form was respectable. He won by a very wide margin, and no matter the company you’re in, that’s pretty remarkable.”

The full field from the rail out: Brooklyn Strong, Crowded Trade, Bourbonic, Risk Taking, Dynamic One, Prevalence, Candy Man Rocket, Weyburn, and Market Maven.

Top Choice

#2 Crowded Trade – For his first time running against stakes company, his Gotham effort was ultra-impressive because he finished second by a nose at 5/1. Brown wheels him right back into a race where he should have a solid chance, and his pedigree suggests that he should stretch out well. Klaravich Stables is Brown’s favorite owner as well, so it would be extra nice for him to get this horse (or his stablemate) to the Kentucky Derby.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#4 Risk Taking – I’ve been waiting for this horse to run again ever since his visually-strong Withers victory. Brown is off to a slow start in 2021, but this horse has remained a bright spot. The pace should set up pretty well for this late-running closer who shares our top pick’s same owner, and Irad Ortiz Jr. picking up the mount signals that this horse could be for real. The waters get deeper here, but he should be ready for the challenge – as long as the pace plays out similarly to how it sets up on paper.

#6 Prevalence – He dazzled on debut at Gulfstream Park, breaking his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths, but his allowance win next time out was not nearly as flashy. Still, he looked solid and should be able to compete with this group in his first race around two turns. He’s in with a big shot, but we just couldn’t pull the trigger as far as picking him to win the whole damn thing.

#8 Weyburn – We’ll see if he backs up his Gotham effort with another solid performance, but he’ll be much lower odds-wise this time and the pace looks pretty hot up front, making him much less attractive. Regardless, his pedigree suggests that added distance will suit him fine and his top effort is proven to be good enough to beat this field.

Exotic Plays

#7 Candy Man Rocket – This horse would probably be one of the favorites if it was held in March, but not after his no-show effort in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last time out. The main problem that day was that he couldn’t get to the front, which could happen again here with a lot of speed signed on. He should run better with a smoother trip, though, which makes him a playable hit-the-board candidate.

Party Crashers

#1 Brooklyn Strong – We’ll see if November’s Remsen Stakes (G2) winner can the Wood despite no starts in between. He kept suffering minor setbacks that delayed his return, so it’s probably best to take a wait-and-see approach in this one unless his price floats up to double digits; he might be worth a shot then.

Throw Outs

#9 Market Maven – He comes into this race off of 2 straight victories, but both came at Parx against lessor company than what he’ll face here. He was on the lead in both winning efforts, something he probably won’t catch here.

#5 Dynamic One – Trainer Todd Pletcher will try to stay hot on the Derby trail this week by sending out he and Bourbonic, though this one probably has his best chance of winning. However, he has a lot of improving to do from a speed figure standpoint if he wants to win his first stakes. This race could be too much, too soon for him.

“He’s always trained well,” Pletcher said. “He was a little unlucky in his two races at Gulfstream to draw the outside post both times, so we were happy to see him get the job done with the maiden win at Aqueduct. We’re going to step up and give him a chance.”

#3 Bourbonic – It looks like Pletcher and Calumet Farm are just taking a swing with him. While we don’t blame them for trying, he looks overmatched, so it’s hard to see him making an impact in this race.

“It’s a big step. We’re taking a shot hoping that we will improve,” Pletcher said.

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