Wood Memorial Stakes Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade II Race @AQU

Trainer Chad Brown enters Risk Taking into the Grade II Wood Memorial Stakes this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, an annual stop along the Derby Trail. See who J.N. Campbell thinks can rival him, if it is at all possible...
Trainer Chad Brown enters Risk Taking into the Grade II Wood Memorial Stakes this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, an annual stop along the Derby Trail. See who J.N. Campbell thinks can rival him, if it is at all possible...

1 1/8th (Dirt), Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), Purse $750k, 3

The Wood Memorial Stakes was once a regal race, considered to be a Grade 1-caliber contest. However, lean years have seen its demise to a Grade 2. Some Derby Champs have come out of this one but in the past 30 years, they have been few and far between… Fusaichi Pegasus is it. Easy Goer, Empire Maker, Tapit, Verrazano, Vino Rosso, and Tacitus were all misses. As the calendar flips to the month before a trip to Churchill, who will take this NYRA Crown, plus KYD Points to the tune of 100-40-20-10, respective to finishing.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Brooklyn Strong (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: D. Velazquez):

The travails of this Danny V. entry have been well-documented ever since he won the Remsen S. (G2) way back in December. There is no question that this gelding is dangerous coming into a spot like this one. Velazquez has a unique story, and wouldn’t it be something if this one could come out with this win? It wouldn’t be surprising in some ways because Manny Franco has ascended to a new plain of elite jockeys based on what he did last year. The most important point is the health of this horse. He looks fit based on recent works over at Parx.

Grade: B+


#2 Crowded Trade (Jky: E. Cancel/Trn: C. Brown):

Trainer Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables, one of his chief clients, have 2 entered here in the Wood. That might mean they are cancelling one another out in a way. I consider this runner to be sort of the “B” choice because he may not be as talented as his stablemate, Risk Taking #4. That could prove a ridiculous thing to pen, but it is based on the fact that he lost the Gotham (G3) to long shot Weyburn #8, who is back in this race. This son of More Than Ready has the ability to bounce back, and very well could because bettors were “wowed” by the “A” runner’s performance down the lane in the Withers (G3). In the end, we might be splitting hairs. Both Klaravichs are game, and might be 1-2. Yes, they are that good.

Grade: B+


#3 Bourbonic (Jky: K. Carmouche/Trn: T. Pletcher):

The Brown boat is moored, but here comes the Pletcher train. He rolls in after a successful weekend down at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Derby (G1). He is trying to obtain another spot in the KYD starting gate. This son of Bernardini will be a major moon shot if he wins this race. I don’t see it, especially because he does not really have the class. Calumet Farm’s resurgence continues, and it is nice to see a homebred draw in here. Even with one of NYRAs leading riders aboard, it will be tough to score here.

Grade: C-


#4 Risk Taking (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

There are a handful of Kentucky Derby hopefuls that have shown major promise along the road, but have yet to sway the public when it comes to their overall ability. Everyone has waited for this Medaglia d’Oro colt to come back to the track. He has major league ability, after that 3+ length win in the Withers (G3). Yet, may I remind you that was back in early February. Brown chose to target this race, knowing full well that it was going to be April before we would see him again. This year’s Wood has turned into a nicely carded race, and this is by no means a coronation… in the bag… all done… hand the trophy over… Irad Ortiz, who gets the call again (he rode this colt in his 1st 2 races), is going to go and get it. Win the day… it might not be a stretch to say that this is Klaravich’s race to lose. But which member of their stable will take home the prize…

Grade: A-


#5 Dynamic One (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Here is another Pletcher entry that is trying to class elevate. Of the 2 that are coming into the Wood, this one looks more plausible based on that effort in a MSW80k at 1 1/8th. That was a 5+ length win, and even though Kendrick Carmouche isn’t riding him, having Jose Ortiz aboard is a plus. Still, it is going to be very tough for this one to make the leap upwards. Counter arguments include… Union Rags is a worthy sire, and anytime the Phipps Stable pairs with Repole and St. Elias, you have the makings for something special. Based on this one’s price at the Keeneland September Sale in 2019--$725k—he better run well… eventually, that is.

Grade: B-


#6 Prevalence (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: B. Walsh):

Godolphin already has a major player in Essential Quality, when it comes to the Derby Trail. However, possibly having 2 should be twice as nice. This is the runner many are chattering about, and if this colt runs as well as some think, then he will be a late bloomer at Churchill. How hard is it to jump into higher company, and score in a race like this one? Astronomical… but not impossible. As a homebred, the “Boys in Blue” are hoping they have given Walsh’s charge every chance to succeed. They even pressed Tyler Gaffalione to forgo his regular trip to Keeneland to come here to ride in this race. Only Godolphin… Major shot to upend Chad Brown’s party. This will be interesting…

Grade: B+


#7 Candy Man Rocket (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):

Speaking of… as we head to the outside gates, we find some runners out this way that are enticing to say the least. I would think that Bill Mott’s Candy Man Rocket will become the day’s ultimate “wise guy” pick. You have the HOF trainer coupled with an entry who absolutely failed miserably last time out in the Tampa Bay Derby. There were so many torn up tickets across the land you could use them to carpet half of Texas. That is the way it goes. If Mott can go back to the drawing board, and move some pieces around, then this son of Candy Ride could end up being a nice pick. Maybe the gate is the key, and hopefully Junior Alvarado can get to the lead early. The problem is that there are some major late-geared runners that will be rolling late. Too many "maybes" in my estimation…

Grade: B-


#8 Weyburn (Jky: T. McCarthy/Trn: J. Jerkens):

Jim Jerkens watched his father turn in some major winners in his day, and he is now carrying the torch, trying to get to the Kentucky Derby with this colt who stunned everyone at 47/1 in the Gotham (G3). Now, the time has arrived to see if that score was a fluke or the realization of a champion ascendant. Since he is out of Pioneerof the Nile, my sense is that it is the latter. This runner is the real deal, and it could be Trevor McCarthy’s ticket to the Big Dance. First, he is going to have to go to war against the Ortiz Bros, Gaffs, and the local triangle offense of Carmouche/Cancel/Franco. Hold on to your hat…

Grade: A-


#9 Market Maven (Jky: D. Haddock/Trn: P. Pearce):

The final runner of the afternoon is going to be the longest shot on the board. Penny Pearce does not come to NYRA that often, so in this spot, it is going to be an uphill climb. Just getting to compete at this level comes to mind. Parx entries get disrespected a fair amount in these types of spots. Dexter Haddock has ridden this one 5x in a row, and it will be a pleasure to see him come to Aqueduct against this crew. Super Ninety Nine via Pulpit would be proud…

Grade: D+


Join us Saturday for all of our Aqueduct Selections! Should be a great set of races from the “Big A!”