04/05/2014 11:54AM

Wood Memorial 2014


12:55 pm: Five minutes to post for the first of a dozen races at Aqueduct, the 10th of them being the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes. Here's the lineup, and I'll be filling in results as the afternoon unfolds.

It's an all-dirt card, the grass course still not recovered from winter, with 10 races around one turn and just the Wood and Gazelle, both at 9f, around two. Right on cue for the first Grade 1 racing in these parts since Thanksgiving weekend, the sun is out and it's a pretty, mild and windy day in South Ozone Park.

Only eight scratches on the card, just one of them -- Kid Cruz from the Wood, announced yesterday -- in the quartet of graded stakes that starts in race 8 with the Bay Shore.

1:45 pm: A pair of 1's in the early double but neither was inside or  speed. Real Estate Rich in the first and Reggie D in the second both were far back early and rallied widest on the outside.

If for some reason you used #4 Hotchoi in the 2nd, you've got a refund coming as he didn't get out of the gate and was ruled not to have had a fair start. 

2:05 pm: First two winners came from the clouds, the third went to speed. Sokitumi Samurai ($7.10) blasted out to a long early lead, did his best to cough it up late, but just held off 33-1 In the Beat at the wire.

3:20 pm: Aqueduct gussied itself up a bit for Wood Day and the place is looking pretty good between a fresh coat of paint, some new racing murals and the long-awaited opening of the Longshots simulcast center.

Longshots is an unusually well-executed version of the standard room full of handicapping carrels and tv screens. Work areas are spacious and the individual tv screens are sharp and easy to navigate. Admission is free for NYRA Rewards members, $5 for others, but anyone who wanted to could walk in and look around and sit at the big sports bar today.

The food and beverage end of things is run by casino overlord Genting, but there apparently won't be any food service for a while, perhaps not until next fall.

There are a few live tellers, plenty of self-service machines, and each carrel tv also works as a betting machine.

It's on the second floor where the Man o'War Room used to be.




3:45 pm: This Hard Game: This Hard Land paid $151 to win after mowing down the leaders nearing the wire to win the 6th, the lone open allowance race on the card. The 6-year-old by Saarland, 4 for 33 entering today's race, lost his rider at the start last time out.

This Hard Land, trained by Rodrigo Ubilo, keyed a $29,778-for-$2 tri and a superfecta that returned $9,428.35 for a dime.


4:05 pm: Here's the late pick-4 play, which starts with the 8th, scheduled for 4:35 pm:

Here was the thinking:

The Bay Shore (race 8)appears to have several committed front-runners, so I'm leaning towards the turnbacks and closers to win it from off the pace. The California-based Kobe's Back and The Admiral are the obvious candidates in that group but Coup de Grace could be a more appealing price.

The Gazelle (race 9)looks like a showdown between potential lone-speed My Miss Sophia and deep closer Sweet Reason. The latter is more accomplished and showed all sorts of promise last year, but could be left with lots to do late if My Miss Sophia gets an easy lead.

In the Wood (race 10), I have to use three A's for three different reasons: Social Inclusion, because he's the most exciting 3-year-old in the land, at least until he faces real company today; Samraat, because he'll get another good set-up and is the best of the locals; and Wicked Strong, because he'll be a silly-big price for a horse who was within a half-length of Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the Remsen. Maybe he hated Gulfstream and he'll rebound today.

In the Carter (race 11), I think Sahara Sky wins if he runs his race, and Clearly Now is an underrated horse who is dangerous if he's ready off a four-month layoff.

4:30 pm: The 7th went to Sea to Sky at 4-1 but be careful with the official fractions and final time. It seems impossible that the first two quarters went in 25.28 and then 22.80, and the final time of 1:39.34 seems impossible slow after This Hard Land supposedly covered the same distance in 1:35.99 half an hour earlier.

4:45 pm: Coup de Grace, given some time off after a disastrous outing in the Holy Bull Jan. 25, returned to New York a winner with a nose victory over a stubborn Oliver Zip in the G3 $300k Bay Shore for 3-year-olds. It was a half-length back to 6-5 favorite Kobe's Back in third with The Admiral beaten just a length in fourth.

Kobe's Back was off very slowly behind the field as Favorite Tale led Oliver Zip through fractions of 22.55 and 45.27. Favorite Tale turned for home a clear leader, but The Admiral surged into contentionn and took the lead after six furlongs in 1:10.26. Kobe's Back then challenged from the outside, and a resurgent Oliver Zip came back through at the rail, but it was Coup de Grace between them who prevailed.

Coup de Grace, a Tapit colt who sold for $300k as a yearling of 2012, looked good winning his debut here last Nov. 9 and then took a preliminary allowance at Gulfstream a month later. Sent off at 3-1 in the Holy Bull, he tired late and checked hard on the stretchj turn, ending up 10th behind Cairo Prince. He's owned by Fox Hill and trained by Chad Brown.

Coup de Grace, 4-1 on the morning line, paid $16.20 as the fifth choice in a field of 8. he ran the seven furlongs under Javier castellano in 1:23.19. Two races at that distance earlier in the card were times in 1:23.70 (older male starter-allowance) and 1:23.85 (open $35k older male claimers.)

5:15 pm: My Miss Sophia ($3.60), who made her racing debut Feb. 9, led every step of the way to win the $300k G2 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies by 7 1/4 lengths in her third career start. Fellow Todd Pletcher traineee Got Lucky was up late for second as the 5-2 second choice with Sweet Reason third in a field of six.

My Miss Sophia, an Unbridled's Song filly who sold for $260k as a yearling, was second in her debut going 5 1/2 furlongs, then won her second start at Gulfstream by 11 lengths on March 9. Today she looked like the lone speed on paper and it worked out that way, as she cleared the field into the first turn and sailed through fractions of 24.31, 48.23, 1:12.39 and 1:37.44. Sweet Reason stayed within striking distance, made a run into the stretch turn, but flattened out late.

My Miss Sophia finished the nine furlongs in 1:50.19 under Castellano. 

With 20 minutes to post, Social Inclusion is 9-5 for the Wood, with Samraat 5-2, and Uncle Sigh and Harpoon at 7-1 each.

5:55 pm: Wicked Strong (9-1) ran his way into the Kentucky Derby picture with a strong late rally past Samraat and Social Inclusion to win the $1 million G1 Wood Memorial by 3 1/2 lengths. Samraat edged Social Inclusion for second by a nose, possibly denying the latter a Derby berth.

Social Inclusion ran an enterprising race, dueling with Schivarelly down the backstretch and then opening daylight turning for home after fractions of 23.79, 47.47 and 1:11.16. He turned into the stretch as if he might blow the race wide open, as he did winning his first two starts by a combined 17 1/2 lengths, but then he faltered late. Had he held second, he would have earned 40 Derby qualifying points, but the 20 he receives for running third may not be enough if there is an overflow field.

Wicked Strong looked like a top classic prospect after running a very close third to Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the Remsen, but then ran poorly in two Florida starts before today. The Hard Spun colt, a $375k yearling purchase by Centennial Farms, is trained by Jimmy Jerkens. He ran the nine furlongs in 1:49.31 under Rajiv Maragh.

6:05 pm: Here are the willpays for the all-stakes pick-4. Yes, since I'm covered with five of the seven in the Carter, I can save/hedge with little win bets on 16-1 Dads Caps and 43-1 Saturday's Charm.


6:35 pm: Dads Caps stole the G1 Carter Handicap in broad daylight, laying down slow fractions and rocketing home over favorites Sahara Sky and Clearly Now. Dads Caps, winless in three previous stakes starts and beyond six furlongs, somehow was allowed to waltz through a quarter in 23.58 and a half in 46.56 under Luis Contreras. (By comparison, claimers went halves in 45.87 and 45.93 earlier in the day.) That left him with plenty in the tank and he flew home to stop the timer in 1:22.02.

The 4-year-old Discreet Cat colt, a Vince Scuderi homebred trained by Rudy Rodriguez, paid $23.60 and left only three live tickets in the pick-6: one to #2 Station Chief for $126k, and two to #3 Salisbury Knight for $63k. Anyone else wins and there's a $126k double-carry to tomorrow. Good night and good luck.