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The Grade 2 Wood Memorial has drawn a field of nine for the final stop in New York on the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby. The Wood offers 170 points towards the race, with 100 points going to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 to third, and 10 to fourth. NBC Sports will broadcast the Wood Memorial along with coverage of the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Coverage will be form 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, with local post time for the Wood Memorial being 5:55 p.m.
Vino Rosso will look to bounce back after running poorly in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. The colt looked like a rising star after a fast-closing third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, but he just couldn’t reproduce that effort in his next start, finishing an average fourth. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez retains the mount once again for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He’s a horse that’s trained very well all winter and in company with some very good horses that have gone on to be successful,” said Pletcher. “So, we’ve been a little frustrated with his races this year. We thought we had seen some improvement with him training (in blinkers), and in the Tampa Bay Derby, Johnny felt like he was more focused in the earlier part of the race, so we talked about it, and after discussing it with Johnny, we decided to leave them on.
“We’ve been looking forward to the Wood for a while,” Pletcher added. “We’re excited to get him back to Aqueduct. It’s where he broke his maiden, and stretching out to a mile and 1/8 is going to allow him to show his true ability.”
Godolphin Racing’s Grade 3 Gotham Stakes winner Enticed will look to make it two in a row this Saturday. The 6-5 morning line favorite will ship back to New York from his home base in Florida. The colt has two graded stakes victories on his resume and seems to be working nicely coming into this race.
“He’s doing very well,” said McLaughlin, who captured the Wood Memorial with Frosted in 2015. “He’s training great. We’re happy with him and we’re there trying to win an important race. Even if it doesn’t have Grade 1 status, we feel like it is a Grade 1. It’s a huge race for a horse in his career, especially for a stallion prospect. Only one horse wins the Derby and 19 are hot and dirty, so this is a very important race on Saturday.”
The field for the Wood Memorial from the rail out: Heartfullofstars, Firenze Fire, Evaluator, Old Time Revival, Enticed, Catch Twenty Two, King Zachary, Restoring Hope, and Vino Rosso.
#8 Restoring Hope – It seems like trainer Bob Baffert has kept this colt under wraps for quite a while, so it’s nice to finally see him entered in a Kentucky Derby prep race. This one could go either way, as his resume is a mixed bag. His maiden special weight win last time out was impressive, but he really didn’t beat any horses of note. In fact, he hasn’t faced much in his entire three-race career. However, we all know how dangerous Baffert can be in these prep races, and his last couple of workouts signal that he’s ready to jump up in class for this spot. Everything this barn sends out is live, and Restoring Hope will be no exception. Against this weak field, he’s worth a shot.
#9 Vino Rosso – His running lines don’t seem too impressive, but if Vino Rosso can get back to his Sam F. Davis form, then he’ll have a chance to bounce back. The colt looks like he needs more distance, which he’s going to get in this spot, and Velazquez shipping north to stay on the horse is a huge positive. He skipped a mount on World Approval to ride this son of Curlin in the Tampa Bay Derby, and even though he disappointed in that race, perhaps Velazquez still thinks highly of him. Expect a bounce back-type of effort from him and hope that it’s enough to have a shot at finding the winner’s circle.
#5 Enticed – The Gotham was a huge win after he looked extremely poor while finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes to start his 3-year-old year. At his best, he’s won multiple graded stakes races, and he’s bred to get this distance. In theory, he’s the most likely winner of the race, but at odds of 6-5, he’s hard to play. Others just appeal a bit more based on the morning line odds, but he should be on most of your multi-race and exotic tickets.
#2 Firenze Fire – He’s had a solid winter in New York, with a win in the $150,000 Jerome Stakes and a second in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes. He seemed like a good fit in the Gotham field last time out, but he showed up with a flat performance while finishing fourth, beaten nearly 10 lengths. This horse has never been flashy, but that performance was uncharacteristic. Even though I don’t think that this distance will suit him, he’s at his home track, so perhaps he has another good race left in him. He really needs to bounce back here.
#7 King Zachary – Trainer Dale Romans will take a swing with this son of Curlin after he romped home to victory in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park. That race was visually impressive, but he was a heavy favorite against a field that left a lot to be desired. If you remember last week, Romans won with a filly that broke her maiden in her first time going long, right before entering in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. Maybe King Zachary can do more of the same against a field that isn’t really a strong Grade 2-caliber group.
#4 Old Time Revival – He jumped out to the early lead in the Gotham and looked to have a big shot at winning before fading to finish second. He really started to struggled towards the end of that race, and now, he stretches out in distance. It will be hard for him to be effective going this long.
#3 Evaluator – After starting his career on turf, his connections switched him to dirt for his last two races, and he ran well both times against state-bred. He now faces open company and will have to continue to improve if he wants to have a shot.
#1 Heartfullofstars – Last time out at Santa Anita, he was finally able to break his maiden, but it took him five tries to get the job done. He did defeat a decent group that day, but two races back, Restoring Hope soundly defeated him.
#6 Catch Twenty Two – This will be a tough chore for a horse that’s never faced anywhere close to this type of competition. He broke his maiden on debut for trainer Chad Brown but was claimed out of that race by Naipaul Chatterpaul. Soon after, he ran against starter allowance company, only to stumble and lose the rider. Here, he tries Grade 2 stakes company, which will be tough for him to compete against.
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