OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Unbeaten Prevalence and Grade 3 Withers-winner Risk Taking highlight a strong field for Saturday’s 96th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino for sophomores going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The nine-furlong two-turn contest is the final local qualifier for the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs and awards 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
The Wood Memorial, which has seen 11 winners go on to win the “Run for the Roses” in its illustrious history, will air on NBSCN as part of a live national broadcast beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and scheduled to include the Grade 2, $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland and the Grade 1, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park.
Prior to the NBCSN broadcast, national television coverage of the Wood Memorial Day card from Aqueduct can be found on America’s Day at the Races on FS2 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
The Wood Memorial is one of five graded events on Saturday at the Big A, including the first New York Grade 1 race of the year in the $300,000 Carter for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs; the Grade 3, $200,000 Bayshore for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs; the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up going nine furlongs; and the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.
Godolphin, whose royal blue colors saw the winner’s circle in the 2015 Wood Memorial with Frosted, will seek their second Wood triumph with the highly regarded Prevalence. The Brendan Walsh-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro is 2-for-2 at Gulfstream Park to start and his career will see two turns for the first time.
Prevalence, the 3-1 morning-line second choice, posted an 8 ½-length debut win going seven furlongs on January 23. The talented bay colt defeated Stage Raider, a half-brother to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, as part of a talented field.
“There were a bunch of horses in that 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.”
He handled a stretch out to a mile on March 11 over the same track, besting an optional claiming field by three lengths. Despite needing light handling in the final sixteenth, Walsh expressed no concern.
“It was just a little bit of greenness. I’m sure if he had company it would have helped him along,” Walsh said.
Prevalence displayed an up close running style in both efforts and Walsh said that his horse should show the same tactics on Saturday.
“He’s quick, so with that kind of speed, he should be prominent in the race,” Walsh said. “He hits me as a horse who can handle any kind of surface.”
Prevalence, a Kentucky homebred, is out of the Ghostzapper mare Enrichment, a full-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Better Lucky and stakes-winning turf sprinter Final Frontier.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione retains the mount aboard Prevalence from post 6.
Prevalence will face four graded stakes-winners who have already earned triumphs on the Derby trail. His biggest challenge comes from Risk Taking, who was made the 5-2 morning line favorite after flaunting excellence in both of his starts going nine furlongs at Aqueduct.
Owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown, Risk Taking benefitted from the addition of blinkers and added distance in his third career start, where the son of Medaglia d’Oro broke his maiden December 13 at the Big A. Risk Taking settled several lengths off a slow pace while saving ground along the rail before drawing off to a 2 ¼-length win over eventual winners The Reds and Unbridled Honor.
Risk Taking secured 10 Derby qualifying points with a 3 3/4-length Withers win, hitting the wire first after securing advantage inside the final furlong.
Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., Risk Taking is out of the dual turf stakes-placed Distorted Humor mare Run a Risk. He was a $240,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Risk Taking drew post 4 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Brown and Klaravich are also represented by Crowded Trade, who arrives off a sharp runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Gotham on March 6 at Aqueduct.
The son of More Than Ready won his six-furlong debut coming from 7 1/2 lengths off the pace to get up in the final strides on January 28 at Aqueduct. Despite a cleaner break in the one-turn mile Gotham, Crowded Trade came up just a nose shy after establishing slight command in mid-stretch but did not fend off the inside challenge of upset winner Weyburn.
Breaking from post 2 at 4-1 on the morning line, Crowded Trade will be ridden by winter meet leading rider Eric Cancel.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is in pursuit of a sixth Wood Memorial victory when he saddles Dynamic One [post 5, Jose Ortiz, 12-1] and Bourbonic [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche, 30-1].
Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Phipps Stable’s Dynamic One graduated at fourth asking when traveling nine furlongs on March 7 at Aqueduct.
In his previous starts around two turns, both at Gulfstream Park, Dynamic One finished a respective second and fourth, with the former coming 1 ½ length shy of victory to dual graded stakes-winner Greatest Honour.
“He’s always trained well,” said Pletcher. “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.”
Bred in Kentucky by co-owner Phipps Stable, Dynamic One was bought for $725,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Pletcher also sends out Calumet Farm’s Bourbonic, who takes a major jump up in class. The son of Bernardini notched both of his lifetime victories at Aqueduct going a one-turn mile. He arrives at the Wood Memorial off a runner-up finish in a Parx Racing optional-claiming event on February 23.
“It’s a big step. We’re taking a shot hoping that we will improve,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher previously won the Wood Memorial with Eskendereya , Gemologist , Verrazano , Outwork , and Vino Rosso .
Cheifswood Stables Limited’s Grade 3 Gotham-hero Weyburn seeks to be the first horse since I Want Revenge  to win the Gotham-Wood Memorial double.
The Ontario-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile tracked pacesetter Freedom Fighter from second before battling with Crowded Trade down the stretch to score a 46-1 upset. Weyburn earned 50 Derby points and is currently 10th on the leaderboard.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens will seek a second Wood Memorial victory after sending out Wicked Strong in 2014.
Trevor McCarthy retains the mount aboard Weyburn from post 8 at morning line odds of 9-2.
A former Wood winner has sired another Wood winner three times in the past 10 years. Brooklyn Strong, a son of 2014 Wood winner Wicked Strong, will look to add to that list in making his sophomore bow for trainer Daniel Velazquez.
Bred in New York by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, Mark Schwartz’s Brooklyn Strong last raced on December 5, capturing the Grade 2 Remsen on over a sloppy and sealed Aqueduct track.
Brooklyn Strong arrived at the Remsen off a stakes win against his New York-bred counterparts in the Sleepy Hollow on October 24 at Belmont Park.
Manny Franco will be aboard as Brooklyn Strong, at 6-1, will break from the rail.
Candy Man Rocket [post 7, 12-1] seeks redemption after a distant 11th in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby as the beaten favorite. The dark bay Candy Ride colt owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations was a sharp 9 ¼-length winner at second asking going six furlongs on January 9 at Gulfstream Park.
He backed up an impressive maiden victory in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on February 6 at Tampa Bay Downs, where he was prominently placed and held off a late charge from stablemate Nova Rags.
Jockey Junior Alvarado retains the mount aboard Candy Man Rocket from post 7.
Rounding out the field is Gregory Gordon’s homebred Market Maven, who ships from Parx Racing for trainer Penny Pearce. The gelded chestnut son of Super Ninety Nine broke his maiden at third asking against fellow Pennsylvania-breds on January 20 before defeating open company winners at a mile and 70 yards on February 23.
Breaking from post 9 at 30-1, Market Maven will be ridden by Dexter Haddock in his first graded stakes mount.
The Wood Memorial, slated for Race 10 on the card, honors the late Eugene D. Wood, a New York state politician who was responsible for the establishment of the now defunct Jamaica Racetrack, where the Wood Memorial was originally run.
Since its inception, the Wood has been captured by over 20 eventual American classic winners, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox , Count Fleet , Assault  and Seattle Slew . Other prominent American classic winners to have previously won the Wood Memorial include Twenty Grand , Johnstown , Hill Prince , Native Dancer , Nashua , Bold Ruler , Quadrangle  Damascus , Foolish Pleasure , Bold Forbes , Easy Goer  and Empire Maker .
First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
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Aqueduct Press Release
Photo: Risk Taking winning the Withers in February, (Chelsea Durand)