04/09/2016 6:52PM

Outwork game, hangs on for Wood Memorial victory

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Debra A. Roma
Outwork, left, edged out a late-charging Trojan Nation in Saturday's Wood Memorial.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher had suffered two tough beats in Grade 1 races at Keeneland Saturday and was hoping that bad things don't, in fact, happen in sets of three.

Standing in a crowded little office in the paddock at Aqueduct, he watched on the tiniest of television sets as Outwork struck the front in mid-stretch of the 92nd Wood Memorial. The still-developing colt, making just his fourth career start was bracing for the oncoming challenge of Trojan Nation, a maiden who at 81-1 was the longest shot in the Wood field.

"Stay focused, stay focused," shouted Pletcher, who earlier in the day suffered narrow losses with Rachel's Valentina in the Ashland, and Stopchargingmaria in the Madison.

Outwork may have been losing focus, but he didn't lose the race, edging Trojan Nation by a head to win the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at soggy Aqueduct.

The win not only earned Outwork a spot in the starting gate for the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, it helped avenge a loss by his sire. Five years ago, Uncle Mo finished third as the 1-9 favorite.

"Forget the Derby, forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win for him in his only his fourth lifetime start to win a Grade 1," said Pletcher. "It was extra gratifying for our team because five years ago Uncle Mo didn't win the Wood Memorial. It's sort of vindication in some ways for him."

Mike Repole owned Uncle Mo and he owns and is the breeder of Outwork. He said the 2011 Wood was "probably one of my toughest racing days and today is probably one of my best racing days."

Outwork was game - if not fast - in victory. Over a sealed, muddy track, Outwork, under John Velazquez, dueled outside of Matt King Coal, under Jose Ortiz, through a half-mile in 45.06 seconds and six furlongs in 1:12.31. The two came into the stretch side-by-side, and it wasn't until just outside the eighth pole that Outwork put away Matt King Coal.

At that time, Trojan Nation, a maiden who lost all five of his starts, was charging up the rail rallying from last under Aaron Gryder. The two persevered through a final eighth in 14.02 seconds with Outwork prevailing.

The final time of 1:52.92 was the slowest time for a Wood Memorial. The previous slowest was 1:52.53 by Tale of Ekati, who finished fourth in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.

"I think he lost focus a little bit when he made the lead," said Pletcher won his fourth Wood Memorial.

"Johnny said he kind of idled on him a bit, plus I think he was getting a little tired. They ran along the first part pretty well. I was hoping that didn't catch up with him late."

Velazquez said he tried to keep Outwork away from Matt King Coal down the backside.

"At the quarter pole, he put his ears up, idled a lot," Velazquez said. "He is still a young horse who is still learning."

While Outwork earned 100 qualifying points to earn his way into the Derby, Trojan Nation collected 40 points and could run in the Derby as a maiden should his connections go that way.

"We've always liked the horse," said trainer Paddy Gallagher from Southern California, where he watched the race. "As long as he's happy and healthy why not at least take a look at it for sure."

Adventist closed down the center of the track to get third by a neck over Matt King Coal. That was Adventist's third straight third-place finish in a graded stakes here and he now has 32 points, which could be enough to go to Churchill.

Matt King Coal was making his stakes debut. He earned 10 points which will likely not be enough to get him in.

Jockey Jose Ortiz said by the three-eighths pole Matt King Coal started bearing out, "which cost me third."

The disappointment of the race was Shagaf, who finished fifth, beaten four lengths. He got stopped a little bit behind horses around the turn, and then came wide in the stretch and flattened out. By virtue of his Gotham Stakes win last month, he could go on to the Derby.

"He elected to go inside and made a sharp middle move there and just had enough of the mud," said trainer Chad Brown. "We'll just see how the horse comes out of the race and go from there. If the horse is healthy I'm inclined to hope for a dry track at Churchill and a better trip. I m confident the horse can get a mile and a quarter."

Tale of S’avall, Flexibility, and Dalmore completed the order of finish in the Wood.

jartaius More than 1 year ago
Sure seems to me like Trojan Nation is the only horse with enough guts and stamina to win the derby.  Did you see how he fought up on the rail after being squeezed in mid-stretch?  I wouldn't worry about the maiden angle.  The connections are very cagey and their only goal with this horse - the best bred one in the top 20 - has been to win the derby.  The Wood was not a fluke...
Ken Herlich More than 1 year ago
Adventist's reminds me so much of Keen Ice hope he can put it all together in the derby

Timothy TJ Trahey More than 1 year ago
Wow......wanted the 80/1  to catch him...would have had the tri three times....
NJHorseplayer More than 1 year ago
Brown's quote at the end is telling, and I wonder if after 2x of Irad putting Shagaf in tight spots and having to idol him (sharply, as replays show yesterday) in the final turn suggests he'll go elsewhere if entered into the Derby. As a big Shagaf supporter, if he makes it to May 7 I hope he gets an outer draw and some cleaner trips. Can absolutely win it. 
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
How many Derby winners have run 5th in their final prep and won? None. You do have CB in your favor. He's as good a trainer as there is in this sport, anywhere. The other problem is Shagaf's stagnant speed figures. You say he was "idling" in the final turn. I didn't see that. He was in the perfect ground-saving position, and he was moving into contention, and he stopped. He got beat soundly by an 83-1 maiden. I would encourage a look at My Man Sam if you want a CB-trained colt to back. Look for solid 5-6 panel works in 2 of his 3 pre-derby workouts. This colt has trained forwardly, and I would look for confirmation in his final works. 
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
Jose Ortiz - maybe MKC was bearing out because he was exhausted after your awful ride.  Break in a tangle then choose to rush to the lead and get hounded every step of the way through crazy fractions by a very nice horse with sprinter speed.  Nice move.  After that break (and maybe even before) the only thought on his mind should have been 'I have to get outside of Outwork'.  Hope they point to the Preakness instead of trying to squeeze in another race for points to try and make the Derby as that could ruin him.  Oh yeah, and get a new jockey.
Dameian Ramsay More than 1 year ago
Outwork might b the best of the uncle mo's going forward.  He has empire maker on the bottom  of pedigree so he should  b able  to run all day. Idk if he can win kd going 22 45 at tge the half  going 1 1/4m with danzing candy laoban nyquist  and cupid  wanting  the front. But nyquist  can sit and cupid can rate also.  I like  nyquist  but idk if he's  a 10f horse.  Derby is gonna  b wide open race with nyquist cupid outwork destin  brody's cause and cherry  wine  coming hard downthestretch . Ooh i like  gunrunner he's my sleeper yhey not respecting  this horse.geroux needs to time it right  with the crazy speed duel that's  gonna  go on upfront.  He should  get 1st run on the closers 
Scott More than 1 year ago
I like Gun Runner too.  His style seems perfect for this year's Derby and he has shown the ability to squeeze through on the rail which is something I always like to see in my closer types.  Candy Ride's aren't great 10F horses, but he also has some serious pedigree on the bottom in Giant's Causeway.  
john g More than 1 year ago
I'd be surprised if anybody in this race is involved in the Derby super.
Scott More than 1 year ago
I think Adventist could hit 3rd or 4th.  I don't see any of these threatening higher than that, but might add a few dollars to my wheels to cover Adventist to the 2nd tier if the odds are high enough.

I'll take a long look at Shagaf and all of his races before completely tossing him.  I thought he was one of the weakest contenders coming into the weekend, but I do think he had excuses based on the ride.  I don't think he would have won, but maybe.  By default, if I think Adventist could hit the board based on pedigree and style, then I almost have to take a long look at Shagaf too.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
One of the rare instances where one can say Irad gave a horse a suspect/bad ride. Not that he was going to win with certainty, but keep him in the clear for crying out loud. He got his schooling in the Gotham...
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
still think Shagaf is the only derby worthy horse out of this race . If they wanted to school him in the art of getting mudd in your face Ortiz certainly obliged by not only dropping way out of it but then rallying right in behind everybody on the inside .probably came back with an extra 10 pounds of mudd on him and wondering why he had to go through that.
Scott More than 1 year ago
I will be looking for Adventist as a possible board crasher.  Pedigree screams distance and the set up should be there for him to hit the board.  I recommend you watch his workouts at Churchill (assuming he goes and actually gets a work or two there) in the 2 weeks leading up the Derby.  Know this...despite finishing in front of Shagaf, his odds will still be higher than that one's on the big Day.  
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
he'll be 20-1 or higher, I'd imagine? He just doesn't finish. He runs with his head very high. That's why they use the shadow roll and blinkers. I do actually like this colt, I'd just like to see him tried in a different kind of spot, maybe shorter, one-turn?
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
you don't run 5th in your final prep and win the derby. this colt hasn't moved forward - speed figure wise - in his last 3 races. And in the Wood, he went backwards. I don't get the infaturation with this colt and i am floored that they are running him. Then again, the field is suspect. Still, I can't make a single case for him except Chad Brown's presence.