Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Wood Memorial

Aqueduct: The $750,000 GII Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

by Brian Nadeau

Also check out Brian’s analysis of the Blue Grass and the Santa Anita Derby.

#1 Heartfullofstars (20-1): Santa Anita invader was all-out to win a restricted MSW last time after dueling on the lead through fast fractions going a mile, so while he’s not a win threat here, he is eligible to add a lot of fuel to the pace fire. Son of Astrology hasn’t moved forward in two starts out west for D’Amato and lost comfortably two back to one of today’s heavy-hitters, Restoring Hope, so he’s got his work cut out for him, even though this is an extremely weak renewal of Aqueduct’s showcase Derby prep; pop and stop time.

Firenze Fire and Manny Franco in the Jerome. NYRA/Chelsea Durand

#2 Firenze Fire (6-1): GI winner would be a major underlay at this ML, as not only is he much more suited to one-turn races, but he simply hasn’t improved an inch on the moderately fast 2-year-old he was last year. Servis has said all along the goal is to get to the Kentucky Derby, and with 29 qualifying points, it’s worth noting he really only needs to run fourth to secure entry, which is something to consider in your handicapping today because he may be ridden to pass a few in the lane and get the smaller share of the points. Son of Poseidon’s Warrior was well-beaten by today’s heavy favorite Enticed in the local prep, the GIII Gotham, and that was at his favored one turn, so it’s not like he’s exactly in raging form, and that second in the local GIII Withers at this trip two back wasn’t much either, so he’s the type worth playing against today, modest field and all; minor award appears his ceiling.




#3 Evaluator (20-1): New York-bred stakes winner brings a nice little résumé to the party with over 200k in earnings and has done little wrong in two main track starts, with a stakes win and a nose loss in another, though neither of those two runs are making the favorites take note today. Dilger adds blinkers to this son of Overanalyze in an effort to get a bit more tactical speed out of him, as he has been dropping far back in his races up to this point, so expect him a bit closer today, especially since he drew well, too. The pace looks honest enough that he could be in the right spot to get a share, but while he will have a nice year, it will come against his kind, not these types; mid-pack finish seems likely.

#4 Old Time Revival (6-1): The speed of the speed dueled early in the Gotham, pulled clear, then succumbed late to Enticed, though it was clearly a breakthrough run after he was necked out using the same strategy in Laurel Park’s Miracle Wood two back. Homebred son of Brethren will try to negotiate another turn for the first time today and will certainly employ the same tactics for a Decker barn that may be under the radar but has had a good year, so if nothing else, the rest of them will know he’s in here. If the track is playing to his kind, he’s eligible to get brave, but he was reeled in easily last time, meets tougher today, and has to get that aforementioned second turn and another furlong, so the hurdles are a lot steeper this time around; making him prove it.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese photo

#5 Enticed (6-5): Deserving heavy chalk is simply the best horse in here and obvious winner if he runs back to his powerful Gotham win, which was relatively fast on paper and better than anyone else in here has done up to this point. Of course, there are some chinks in the armor, as he’s another who might be a bit better going one turn, though he did win a key race in Churchill Downs’ GII Kentucky Jockey Club to end his 2yo campaign (albeit in very slow time). Homebred son of Medaglia d’Oro has traveled a lot this year for McLaughlin, starting out in Florida when he bombed in Gulfstream Park’s GII Holy Bull in February, then shipped here to win the Gotham, and then shipped back to Florida to train at Palm Meadows, so there are a lot of frequent flier miles on his tab, which could become a slight issue, though there’s little doubt the path to the winner’s circle still goes through him; will be tough to deny.




#6 Catch Twenty Two (50-1): Son of Super Saver will be literally the longest shot of any horse to run in a Triple Crown prep this year, and while Chatterpaul has been known to pull off a shocker or two, it’s never been with a colt with a Beyer top of 52; next.

#7 King Zachary (20-1): Price player sure looked good blasting maidens for fun at GP last month for Romans, in what was his first two-turn start, too, so there may be a bit more than meets the eye here from a colt who is clearly getting good at the right time. Well-bred son of Curlin is cut out to be a good one and cost 550k as a yearling, so they clearly thought highly of him, and it appears that confidence is beginning to pay off after three starts. And yeah, this is a seismic step up in class, but as mentioned, this isn’t a field full of tigers, and we know these 3yos can improve open lengths overnight, so if you’re looking for a big number to blow up your exotics, you probably just found it; very playable underneath.

#8 Restoring Hope (4-1): Lightly-raced runner from Baffert blasted ‘Heart to break his maiden at SA last time and is a lot like ‘Zachary next door, in that he’s getting very good at the right time for a potent barn. But unlike that colt, this one has run very fast on figures and isn’t far off what the best in here have posted, and you know his Hall of Fame trainer wouldn’t ship him across the country if he didn’t think he was in with a winning chance, which further adds to the appeal of this son of Giant’s Causeway. This wide post did him no favors, but there’s plenty of California speed in this corner to negate it, and if Enticed is a somewhat legitimate 6-5 on the ML, it says a lot about who else is in here, which means this rapidly improving runner is going to have a big say; call to post the mild surprise.

#9 Vino Rosso (9-2): Tricky read from Pletcher was fancied in the GII Tampa Bay Derby but didn’t run much in a very disappointing fourth and will seek a quick form reversal from a very disadvantageous wide draw to boot. Son of Curlin added blinkers last time, and it sometimes does take a horse a spin to get accustomed to the hood, so he does have that going for him today, and if you saw how he found himself very late in Tampa Bay Downs’ GIII Sam F. Davis two back, you’d think he’s a player in here. Tactical sort should sit an up-close stalking trip, and if he doesn’t lose too much ground early, he should be in the right spot off the far turn, but that last just leaves a bad taste in the mouth that is tough to get around; limiting his use to underneath only.


#8 Restoring Hope

#5 Enticed

#7 King Zachary

#9 Vino Rosso


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