04/09/2011 11:33AM

Wood Day Live!


12:30 p.m.: Half an hour until first post at Aqueduct, where the skies are clear, the track is fast, and it feels like there's a crowded house already. With most of the grandstand still closed for racinovations, it's going to seem even busier, but there were well over 100 people lined up outside the main entrance when the gates opened an hour ago.

The Wood Memorial is one of four graded stakes on today's 11-race Aqueduct card, and one of four Grade 1 races around the country. Here's the lineup and timetable for all of today's graded stakes:



Six late scratches from the Aqueduct stakes: Dr Disco in the Bay Shore; Calibrachoa, Have You Ever, Be Bullish and Independence War from the Carter; and Full of Scoundrels from the Wood. The four stakes comprise a $500k guaranteed pick-4 on races 7-10; the no-carryover pick-6 sandwiches the stakes between a 6th-race sprint for $7,500 claimers and an 11th-race N2L $25k turf race.

I'll be back in a bit with a cheat sheet on the stakes races. I'm not going to try to beat Uncle Mo in the Wood, but the Comely and Bay Shore have shaky 5-2 ML favorites in Ava K. and Buffum and there may be enough value therein to make a worthwhile pick-4 play through the 1-5 Wood favorite.


1:30 pm: The opener, for $7500 claimers, went to the veteran Callmetony, who was winning for the 19th time in a 70-race career that began at Golden Gate Fields in February of 2004. The 10-year-old Runaway Groom gelding has won at least one race in each of his eight years on the track and four starts ago was claimed back by owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bruce Levine, who campaigned him from 2005 to 2009. Callmetony was claimed out of today's victory and now moves to the barn of trainer Sandino Hernandez.

Here's a first pass at the all-stakes pick-4, which begins at 4:03 pm with the Comely:


3:20 p.m. : A few years ago, DRF handicapper Kenny Peck turned me on to an obscure New Jersey-based trainer named Dennis Lalman, who had an uncannily good record first time off the claim. In 2010 and 2011, there have been only three such Lalman-off-the-claim situations: On January 13, 2010, he won first off the claim at Aqueduct with Autumnlady at 14-1; ran 7th on May 8, 2010 at Belmont with The Mules Sister; aasn't smart enough to play the early Pick-4, where winners paying $5.70, $6.00, $15.20nd a few minutes ago he sent out Game Token to win the 5th at Aqueduct at 63-1 ($128.50). NYRA analyst Andy Serling, a fellow Lalman follower, picked Game Token on top on today's Talking Horses and during the pre-race prattle -- after which Game Token's odds soared from 32-1 to 63-1.

I made a token win bet but wasn't smart enough to play the early Pick-4, where winners paying $5.70, $6.00, $15.20 and $128.50 (an $8,349 parlay) combined for a $12,707-for-$2 payoff.


3:55 pm : Ex Pat ($19.40) kicked off the pick-6 by running down Surfing Ian in a 6th race marked by three late scratches (Little Wise Guy, King Rush, Buzz Off Buster.) If you used any of them (little Wise Guy was 4-1 when scratched), you got moved to 9-5 Drink at Last Call, who ran 3rd.

Here's the pick-4 play:


 4:20 p.m. : Hot Summer, who was needlessly gunned when facing much better (R Heat Lightning, Dancinginherdreams) in the G2 Davona Dale last time out, got a patient up-the-rail ride from new jockey Luis Saez to win the G3 Comely by 2 1/4 lengths at $14.00. Her Smile was second, two lengths in front of Ava K., a strangely overbet 7-5 off a loose-on-the-lead victory over statebreds last time out.


4:50 p.m. : J J's Lucky Train ran down Vengeful Wildcat in deep stretch to win the G3 Bay Shore by a neck in 1:22.54. Justin Phillip was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third and 1 1/2  in front of Buffum and Royal Currier who dead-heated for 4th (two superfectas!). Royal Currier reared and broke through the gate before the start.

The first two finishers were both 2-1 on the board but J J's Lucky Train was the actual favorite. Buffum, 5-2 on the morning line, was icy in the betting, going off as the 6-1 fourth choice.

J J's Lucky Train was coming off a highly-rated (97 BSF) victory in the Miracle Wood over Bandbox, who returned to win the Private Terms. J J's Lucky Train ran second in both the Count Fleet and Whirlaway when stretched out to two turns and seems better in extended sprints.


5:30 p.m. : Morning Line, second in the BC Dirt Mile and the Donn, became a G1 winner in his third try when he beat Apriority to win a fast Carter Handicap. The time for seven furlongs was 1:21.46, 1.08 seconds faster than the 3-year-olds in the Bay Shore a race earlier.

Uncle Mo just opened as the 1-9 favorite in the upcoming Wood, also attracting $376k of the opening $395k show pool. The pick-4 to him is paying a square $203.50 for $2 after the first three winners paid $14.00, $6.00 and $6.20. The next smallest payoffs are 20 and 50 times higher: $4,097 to Toby's Corner and $10,246 to Arthur's Tale.


6:15 p.m.: Let the debate begin: Did Uncle Mo have a bad day, or did his shocking defeat in the Wood Memorial expose him as a miler who has failed to progress from 2 to 3?

In probably the biggest upset in a Derby prep since Secretariat ran third in this race 39 years ago, Uncle Mo turned into the stretch with a daylight lead and seemed poised to run off and hide. Instead, he was passed in the final furlong, first by Arthur's Tale and then by Toby's Corner ($19.40), who surged to beat Arthur's Tale by a neck with Uncle Mo a length back in third as the 1-to-10 favorite.

The first two finishers were the next two choices in the betting at 8-1 and 20-1, combining for a $158 exacta that had to be one of the highest in parimutuel history for the second and third choices in a race. Uncle Mo attracted $466,794 (76.2 percent) of the $612,024 win pool and $885,811 (91.1 %) of the $971,561 show pool.

Uncle Mo set moderate fractions of 23.49, 47.98, 1:12.28 and 1:37.26 and led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go. The Wood was the only two-turn dirt race of the day, making precise pace evaluation difficult, but the entire field was bunched up, with only six lengths from front to back after six furlongs.

Toby's Corner, coming off a third to Uncle Mo's stablemate Stay Thirsty in the Gotham, has now won 4 of 6 starts. The Diane Cotter homebred son of Wood winner Bellamy Road raced with blinkers for the first time today.  

The doubts raised about Uncle Mo's distance capabilities and development seem sure to attract a full Derby field.

The Wood result also wiped out any live pick-6 tickets and prompted a carryover of $66,153 into Sunday's card.