Aqueduct: The Grade I, $1 million Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 100-50-20-10)
#1 Tiz Shea D (8-1): Lightly raced runner didn’t disgrace himself in the least when he was second to one of today’s heavyweights El Kabeir in the GIII Gotham in the mud here in March over the inner track last time, in what was his first route and first try against winners. And sure, that race was run in slow time and the winner was much the best, but this son of Tiznow had nothing but a 5 1/2-furlong Parx MSW to his credit, not to mention that he had trouble getting out at a pivotal time, so to be second with all that going against him was impressive indeed. The waters undoubtedly get deeper today, but Mott isn’t in the Hall of Fame for running them where they can’t win, and he drew perfectly too, so with expected further improvement off that trial run, at a very playable price with a pedigree that should love this trip, you better given him a long look in all the slots; expecting another biggie.
#2 Toasting Master (20-1): The likely inside speed dueled on the lead and held relatively well when fourth in the Gotham, beaten just 3 1/2 lengths, in his first two-turn start on dirt, and will try to take them as far as he can on the engine. The pace, on paper, isn’t overly heated, so he should make the engine, but with Frosted to his outside and ML favorite Daredevil exiting a ridiculously fast sprint, it’s not like they will let him get too far away, either. Son of Congrats is seemingly on the improve for Romans, and, as solid as the new shooters are, it’s not like they are overwhelming, so if they leave him alone up front, he could get brave in the lane, though the chances of the former happening seem pretty slim; know him early, not sure about late.
#3 Lieutenant Colonel (15-1): Lightly raced Brown runner was last of 10 in the Gotham, while beaten 21 3/4 lengths, so to see him wheel back in this spot is surprising, to say the least. He did get banged around at the start last time, and that debut win at Gulfstream Park in February was solid, but on paper, with an alert beginning, he looks like nothing more than a pace factor. Colonel John colt appears to have some talent and there’s a lot of upside here, but at this point in his development, this is just way too much too soon; not seeing it.
#4 Frosted (5-2): Be honest: When he overpowered the leader entering the far turn of Gulfstream Park’s GII Fountain of Youth in February, took charge and opened up under a stranglehold, you were thinking “Wow, he’s going to win by 6.” And then, just as fast as he was going to win by 6, he was done, as this homebred by Tapit simply dropped anchor off the turn and stopped running in an effort that left McLaughlin, and a legion of handicappers, wondering what the heck had just happened. Well, he’s back today, with a new jockey (Rosario), some sensational drills at Palm Meadows, a trainer that thinks (or hopes) that he’s got the kinks ironed out, while getting to run over the same track/distance where he announced his presence last fall with a game second in the GII Remsen. All good things, to be sure, but then you look at the ML and see “Godolphin” and “McLaughlin” listed in his past performances, and you realize that you won’t get fair value on a runner who is the 2015 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If you’re a fan, you point to the Remsen and his solid second to Upstart in his seasonal debut in GP’s GII Holy Bull; if you don’t like him, you laugh at all those who are taking 5-2 after the FOY debacle and keep looking. But while beauty is no doubt in the eye of the beholder, what is not in question is the quality—or lack thereof—of this field, and that’s why we’ll side with the fans and give him top billing; call to finally deliver on all the promise.
#5 El Kabeir (3-1): The most underappreciated 3-year-old on the planet does nothing but win races, in decisive fashion no less, yet still gets passed over on most Kentucky Derby lists as second tier, and the fact that he’s the 3-1 third choice on the ML here bears that mindset out. Terranova charge has some luck to him, though, as the only horse to vanquish him this year, Far From Over, who pulled off an unbelievable win in the GIII Withers in February, got hurt and was forced to miss this. So there’s a chance that he triples up on his local inner dirt wins in the GIII Jerome in January and Gotham, because, as solid as the new shooters are, they are hardly overwhelming and come with a lot of question marks. The worry here is that he’s not really bred, as a son of Scat Daddy, to love nine furlongs, and you have to wonder just how much more he can give, while noting what he’s given so far really hasn’t been all that fast to begin with. So yeah, while you better respect him, and owning a home field advantage is never a bad thing, once again there are a few sexier rivals that push him towards the bottom of the list; banging the head against the wall and once again playing against on top.
#6 Daredevil (9-5): The ML favorite invades from GP after running second to Ready for Rye (check him out in the Bay Shore here in the preceding race) in his seasonal debut in the GII Swale for Pletcher but brings as many questions as he does answers to the table, as he’s never won a main track race on a fast track or at two turns. Son of More Than Ready was awesome winning his debut and the GI Champagne at Belmont Park last year, but those were at one-turn over extremely wet tracks, so you have to take his overall body of work with a grain of salt, and that’s before we even mention his dismal last-of-11 (beaten 26 1/4 lengths) in the BC Juvenile at Santa Anita in November—at 5-2, no less. That Swale run was nice, and in very fast time over a fast track, too, but that was just seven furlongs, and now he draws poorly, goes all the way to nine furlongs off one prep, and tries to do something he’s never done before, so if you want about 2-1, then by all means swing away, but we’ll try to make him prove it at extremely underlaid odds; underneath, if at all.
#7 Tencendur (12-1): Longshot NY-bred son of Warrior’s Reward added blinkers and was fifth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Gotham for Weaver and will try to negotiate a trip from an extremely troublesome draw. And, as hinted above, exiting the Gotham, which five of the seven in here do, might not be a great thing, especially when the top five were separated by less than four lengths. Point being, he wasn’t good enough to beat the main contenders that day, now draws worse of all, meet s a couple of newbies who will take a ton of money, and could also be at the mercy of the pace, which doesn’t look overly fast; up against it and then some.
#1 Tiz Shea D
#5 El Kabeir