Updated on 09/16/2011 7:10AM

Buddha takes Wood over Medaglia d'Oro

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Buddha (right) holds off a persistent Medaglia d'Oro (center) and Sunday Break to win the Wood.

JAMAICA, N.Y. - As he watched his big, gray colt Buddha charge down the inside of Aqueduct's stretch in Saturday's $750,000 , trainer James Bond had great confidence that his jockey, Pat Day, would have something left for the last 100 yards.

But the horse he was battling with, Medaglia d'Oro was ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr. and trained by Bobby Frankel, who seems to win every major race.

Almost every major race.

Saturday, before 20,103 at Aqueduct, Day saved just enough to get Buddha past Medaglia d'Oro by a head to win the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and most likely earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs. It was the third straight victory for Buddha, a son of 1996 Wood winner Unbridled's Song, who was making his stakes debut.

"The good guys win once in a while," said Bond, who won his first Wood and would be making his Derby debut. "This horse is very game, but you know Pat . . . he always saves something for the end."

Medaglia d'Oro, the 2-1 favorite, finished one-half length in front of Sunday Break. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Saarland.

Blue Burner finished fifth, followed by Iwin and Nokoma. Laissezaller, the European import, was pulled up early on the backstretch after fracturing his right hind pastern. Laissezaller was euthanized an hour after the race.

Though Medaglia d'Oro - winner of the San Felipe in his last start - lost, it was hard to wipe the smile off Frankel's face. His horse will also be going to the Derby.

"Secretariat got beat too, just remember that," said Frankel, noting that Secretariat finished third in the 1973 Wood before winning the Triple Crown. "I thought he ran great. I was very happy with his race."

As expected, Medaglia d'Oro went to the front, running an opening quarter in 23.84 seconds. Buddha, who was in tight quarters entering the first turn, joined Medaglia d'Oro early on down the backside and the two ran together, alternating on the lead, the remainder of the way.

It was a head-bobbing finish, with Buddha getting his head on the line first. Buddha covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.61 and returned $8.20 as the second choice.

Like Buddha, Sunday Break was making his stakes debut. After breaking with his head in the air, he settled in nicely and sat third behind the top two but could not get by. Still, trainer Neil Drysdale was pleased enough to continue on to the Kentucky Derby.

"My feeling would be that he would improve off this race," Drysdale said.

Though Saarland finished fourth, trainer Shug McGaughey was happy enough with the performance to commit Saarland to the Derby.

Overall, the Wood has produced 19 Kentucky Derby winners, including the last two, Fusaichi Pegasus and Monarchos.