Wood Memorial (G2) — Race 10 (5:58 p.m. ET)
After a one-year absence from the calendar, the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on Saturday packs quite a punch. The 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep has attracted arguably its most interesting field in years, and the Chad Brown-trained Risk Taking and Crowded Trade could both play a big role.
The proven router of the two at this stage, Risk Taking has won back-to-back races over the Wood’s track and distance, including the Feb. 6 Withers (G3) by a decisive 3 3/4 lengths. The less-experienced Crowded Trade, though, displayed great promise when dueling Weyburn to a nose in the one-mile Gotham (G3) last month in only his second lifetime start.
Godolphin has the current Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite in juvenile champion Essential Quality, and could have yet another entry for the classic after Saturday if the similarly undefeated Prevalence steps up in his stakes debut. The son of Medaglia d’Oro, who belatedly debuted at Gulfstream in late January, has been a facile winner of both starts by a combined margin of 11 1/2 lengths.
“He’s quick, so with that kind of speed, he should be prominent in the race,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “He hits me as a horse who can handle any kind of surface.”
The aforementioned Weyburn was a game, 46-1 upset winner of the Gotham in his first start in three months and outside the maiden ranks. The son of Pioneerof the Nile was produced from an A.P. Indy mare, so the colt has the pedigree to handle the extra furlong rather well on Saturday. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is on record thinking Weyburn perhaps a stronger candidate for the Belmont S. (G1) in June rather than the Kentucky Derby.
Brooklyn Strong, who captured the track-and-distance Remsen (G2) in December, has dealt with several setbacks over the winter that have prevented him from starting since the Remsen. However, the New York-bred has won three of four for Parx-based trainer Danny Velazquez.
Candy Man Rocket, who captured the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in February, looks to rebound from an awful run in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in which he finished 11th of 12 as the 8-5 favorite. Trainer Bill Mott won the last running of the Wood in 2019 with Tacitus.
Todd Pletcher, who’s won the Wood five times since 2010, will saddle the longshot pair of Dynamic One and Bourbonic. The field is rounded out by another Parx shipper, recent allowance winner Market Maven.
The Wood Memorial’s top four finishers will earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-40-20-10, respectively.