Our own George Sette is back with his well thought out and detailed analysis of the 2019 Wood Memorial, a major Kentucky Derby prep and points race.
Aqueduct Race # 10 $750,000.00 Grade 2 Wood Memorial One Mile & 1/8 Estimated Post Time 6:00PM
It’s always a very special racing day in New York when the Wood Memorial is run typically a month or so away from the Kentucky Derby, the Run for the Roses. It’s a Grade 2 but I’ve always approached this race like a Grade 1. In fact, the locals will always call it “Wood Memorial Day”. It sports a fabulous racing card inclusive with the Grade 3 Bayshore & Excelsior, the Grade 2 Gazelle, and yes, the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, always a compelling race with this year being what I feel could be a 2 horse race ( I like World of Trouble & Vino Rosso to fill the exacta)
The undercard is special. I’m hoping there’s a good live turnout at Aqueduct which has changed so significantly, in my opinion, over the years. The 2019 Wood Memorial will likely produce two Kentucky Derby horses. It’s a very competitive field with many colts looking to improve further from their recent efforts, some of which have been their career best, with others perhaps a continued stepping stone towards what could be their career best race to date.
This year’s race may prove pedigree value as there’s some major question marks about the ability of some of these colts to get the 9-furlong distance. So, after my typical deep scrubbing though past performances, race video and pedigree reconciliations, here’s how I see the race finishing, my very best and precise order of finish in this eleven-horse field.
# 10 Outshine
I was entirely impressed with his effort in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9th. He was a bit wide, maintained his composure, and rallied well through the stretch. It was a game effort and I don’t believe he showed his very best. He began his career as a two-year old sprinting at Belmont last summer. He won his debut in the slop and then just a few weeks later, he faltered badly in the 150,000 Tremont. He just wasn’t right. I knew it in reviewing the race video and they decided to rest him for 7 months. I believe he physically developed and got the rest he needed. He came back running, taking on a moderate field at Gulfstream and won driving, showing great improvement. I just love his bloodlines, bred to be a winner for sure. Todd Pletcher saddles, Johnny Velazquez rides, in what seems to be a nice spot for him. He can be tactical, sitting 4th or 5th with gradual advancement and then to have lots left in his tank for what can very well be a victorious stretch run. A couple of smart breezes for the race indicate fitness and if it’s wet, I’d still like his chances.
Watch the board, you may get a solid 5-1 on this colt and what may prove to be very nice betting value.
# 1 Tax
There’s certainly lots to like about this guy. He possesses solid tactical speed, he draws the rail and he’s the only colt in this field proven to take the distance.
In his last, the Grade 3 Withers, he stumbled at the start and recovered nicely, finishing with a game effort, getting his head in front at the wire. I love seeing that. He got a great ride that day from Junior Alvarado who’s back in the saddle for this race. He grabbed the rail and rallied powerfully under the whip. He has developed nicely as a three-year old, significantly improving his race times and should once again get an advantageous trip.
In my opinion, he’s hard to leave out of the money and is deserving of being considered a contender to win this race.
# 4 Haikal
Interesting colt who’s just a neck short of coming into this race unbeaten, winning 3 of his 4 lifetime starts, only losing his debut over this same Aqueduct soil by just a neck. He’s won his last 3 in the same fashion, all with dead game stretch runs, so you know he’s got heart and tenacity.
I like his connections with Rajiv Maragh up for Kieran McLaughlin. He’s my 3rd choice mainly because I respect his effort and willingness to get to the wire. I am concerned, however, about the distance, mainly because he’s been sprinting. I’ve seen over the years added distance to a dynamic closer doesn’t always add up to purse money. Even so, because he came back from being way out of it in deep stretch to win the Gotham at a mile, his relentless close, to me, gave him this deserving consideration.
Don’t ignore him and watch the board.
# 2 Tacitus
This colt enters the race after winning the Tampa Bay Derby with a strong rally, defeating my top choice that day. His connections of the great Junior Ortiz riding for Bill Mott is automatically appealing. He too came back running in early March after being on the sidelines since early November. His Pedigree screams for the distance, so I have no worries about this 9-furlong gallop, nor would I have a concern if he makes it to the mile and ¼ Kentucky Derby. I’m expecting this gray to sit off the pace, which may very well be rather fast, and be in position to mount a similar powerful close.
He’s capable of improving my 4th place rating, but my top 3 choices to me are in a better position to improve off their last race.
# 3 Hoffa’s Union
I had to take a very long look at this guy. He comes into this race with only one career start, but it was a smashing victory at Laurel Park against 41k MSW colts, winning by greater than 15 lengths. He’s a gelding, never raced as a two-year old and gets Lasix for the race. He also picks up the confident hands of Dylan Davis who knows Aqueduct very well and knows how to find the wire too.
Let’s just call him the Wood Memorial wild card. He’s the son of Union Rags who won the Belmont Stakes and has the pedigree to love the distance; however, he’s facing too many decent horses who are in solid form to be confident in selecting him to win here. Facing winners for the first time is never an easy task to overcome, especially at this level. Would he be a shocker? No way, but he gets my 5th place vote here until I see him race with graded stakes horses. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they used him in some of their exotics, but there are just too many concerns, and I’m not expecting him to be left alone on the lead.
If that happens, he may tire in the stretch.
# 5 Final Jeopardy
Manny Franco up for Jason Servis will grab your attention almost immediately because collectively they both know how to win. His pedigree says yes to taking the distance and he comes into the race with a solid mile victory at Gulfstream Park, albeit vs. cheaper colts. His works for this race were below average, so that raised some concerns in my charting. He’s a nice horse, but I feel he’s just not ready enough to be a big threat with these.
He’ll get some window action because of his connections, but I’m going to pass on him.
# 6 Overdeliver
He’s a lightly raced colt with two sharp efforts, both in Florida. He won his debut at Gulfstream and then finished a close 2nd in a small field at Tampa Bay in a light action 75k stakes race. Todd Pletcher has him in this race, but I feel Pletcher knows his best chance of winning would be with my top choice. Overdeliver comes into this race very fresh with some nice AM breezes; however, since he’s stretching out for the very first time, I think the distance will be good for him another time. I think there’s too much for him to overcome on Saturday.
It’s best to watch him and chart his progress.
# 11 Joevia
He’s a nice looking colt with some quality tactical speed. You may see him pressing early out of the gate, perhaps racing in the top 3 for the first half mile. He’s 3 for 3 lifetime in the money which proves he’s a runner, so he could improve further here and perhaps last for a share in your bottom gimmicks or wheels.
His post is daunting and my horses listed above him just seem more enticing.
# 7 Not that Brady, # 8 Grumps Little Tots & # 9 Math Wizard in order round up my bottom three. There’s some talent in the mix, but I feel each of them are simply up against it to hit the board for some purse money.
Each of them would have to improve dramatically to hit the board in this spot.
Ok, so there you have it, another big racing day in the Big Apple. Don’t forget to check out and read my analysis for the Santa Anita Derby which will be published under a separate article.
Enjoy your racing day and Let’s go get-em.