03/16/2013 1:25PM

Aqueduct: Elnaawi works for Wood Memorial

Tom Keyser
West Hills Giant will run next in either the Wood Memorial or the Blue Grass Stakes.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Elnaawi, the third-place finisher in the Gotham on March 2, began working toward a start in the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6 by breezing an easy half-mile in 50.01 seconds Saturday morning over the Belmont Park training track.

Elnaawi, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner To Honor and Serve, breezed in company with Navy Guard, a 3-year-old maiden who is a half-brother to 2008 juvenile champion Midshipman. Elnaawi worked in blinkers, equipment he has worn in all three of his starts.

“He’s been quirky in the mornings, never been a problem in the afternoon,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “The blinkers may be more for us than him.”

Magnuson said the initial plan was for Elnaawi to have just two workouts between the Gotham and the Wood, but, he said, “There’s nothing wrong with stretching his legs.” He will have two more works leading up to the Wood.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Magnuson did confirm that Eddie Castro would ride Elnaawi in the Wood, replacing Channing Hill. Castro, who won the 2011 Wood on Toby’s Corner, has won 5 races from 14 mounts for McLaughlin-trained horses this winter at Aqueduct. McLaughlin trains Elnaawi for Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Eddie on Shadwell horses; that’s the way we want to go right now on this horse,” Magnuson said.

With three weeks to the Wood, the field is expected to include Verrazano, Vyjack, Normandy Invasion, Mr Palmer, Elnaawi, Speak Logistics, and Indy’s Illusion. Possible starters include West Hills Giant, Always in a Tiz, and Escapefromreality.

John Terranova, the trainer of Gotham runner-up West Hills Giant, said he also is considering the Blue Grass for his New York-bred son of Frost Giant “if we decide we need another week.”