Brian’s Derby preps: The Wood Memorial

The Wood Memorial – Aqueduct – $500,000 – 1 1/8 Miles, by Brian Nadeau

The centerpiece of the Aqueduct spring meet offers several a last chance at securing enough graded stakes earnings, while giving the overwhelming favorite–I Want Revenge–a chance to show that his romp in the Gotham last month wasn’t a fluke. Any Dunkirk fans out there? Second-place in here gets you $150,00, so any horse with a cent of graded earnings prior to post passes him. Let’s take a look (please note horses are listed in post position order, not program order).

I Want Revenge-Considering that his tour de force in the Gotham was at two turns, it was clearly the most definitive 3yo performance of the spring. And even with some expected regression on Saturday, this colt could still easily win this, especially with this cozy rail draw. But does he have to? Monarchos in 2001 comes to mind, when he ran a solid second while not being pushed in the Wood after romping in the Florida Derby a month earlier. We all know how that turned out. So there’s a chance that Mullins wants to leave something in the tank for the Derby. Those looking to beat him can point to the obvious bounce, not to mention the fact the Gotham was over the inner track and we’re on the main on Saturday. Throw in a pair of cross-country trips and maybe 4-5 doesn’t sound so enticing. But no matter how you shake things out, the path to the winner’s circle goes straight through this dude.

Lord Justice-The word on the street says he’ll scratch out of the Illinois Derby and instead make the 8-mile trip from his Belmont base. And while that seems logical, he certainly faces a much tougher task in here. There’s a bit of speed in this corner, and that coupled with a nice post should ensure a good trip. Mom and dad were both Grade I winners, but this colt will have to improve several lengths to join them.

Cellar Dweller-The surprise entrant seems eons behind the rest in here, especially when you consider he’s still eligible for an entry-level allowance. Let’s just hope he gets home safely.

Atomic Rain-The first of the Breen entry just hasn’t been able to build on that second to Old Fashioned in the Remsen here last November. The good news is that he gets back to the place where he’s done some of his best work. The bad news is that with each passing day, that race gets farther and farther away. Another with speed, and maybe he’s in here to set things up for his buddy ‘Bernie next door.

West Side Bernie-No matter how you shake it, his run in the Lane’s End was extremely disappointing. It’s one thing to not handle the fake stuff, but this guy romped over that very course last year. So what do we get today? His third in the Holy Bull to start the season was huge, especially when you consider that that was one of the worst inside speed biases in recent memory at Gulfstream. So if you’re willing to forgive his last, and the big colt on the rail stumbles, just maybe you’re looking at a big run. Just maybe, mind you.

Imperial Council-Lightly raced colt impressed in his runner-up effort in the Gotham. Sure, he was in a different area code than the winner at the finish, but he also put in a nice late rally behind two horses that slowed it to a crawl up front. And don’t forget, the Gotham was his first start at two turns, his first stakes assignment, and only his second outing of the year. And he figures to be much sharper and much closer to the pace on Saturday. The biggest plus? He needs earnings, so you know Shug will have him ready to roll. The most logical alternative to the favorite has over 8 lengths to make up, but with the expected move forward and the regression from ‘Revenge, we’ll give him the call to post a mild upset.

Just A Coincidence-Not a lot of guess work here; this guy’s going to the front and he’ll take them as far as he can. Whether he gets there uncontested is another matter, but no doubt this post forces his hand. He’s come to life a bit in his last two on the stretch to 1-mile, but the waters get much, much deeper on Saturday.

Lime Rickey-He’s never tested the dirt but he sure has a nice pedigree for it and the 9 panels he gets here. He drew horribly, but with little speed to his credit, it’s not all that bad. The plan should be to tuck in and save ground and hope the leaders tire while he makes his move around the far turn. Well, there’s more than a few in here that want to mix it up early, so that works. And let’s be honest, besides the top two, the others have a ton of question marks. And what if Imperial Council doesn’t improve? Point being, this one figures to be overlooked in the exotics and should be rolling late, so he’s worth a flyer if they let him go at 15-1.

Teresa will be back on Friday with a look at Mr. Eugene D. Wood, he for whom the race is named. And don’t forget to active your Road to the Roses horses–you don’t want to miss any potential points on this busy weekend.

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