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Road to the Derby: Wood Memorial
Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial; 1 1/8 miles; Aqueduct; April 9, 2016
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)
Winner: Outwork, by Uncle Mo
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Repole Stable
Beyer Speed Figure: 93
On paper, this was an intriguing edition of the Wood, with horses shipping in from Florida and California to take on good group of locals, including SHAGAF, winner of the Gotham, as well as the late-developing MATT KING COAL.
But the result was disappointing for most of the runners. The final time of 1:52.92 was the slowest Wood at the current 1 1/8 miles, and did not compare favorably with the final time recorded by the 3-year-old filly Lewis Bay two races earlier in the Gazelle. The off track certainly contributed to the time, and the Beyer Figures reflect a belief that the track was worsening as the day progressed, but the runners crawled home, with the final three furlongs taking 40.61 seconds.
OUTWORK gets extra credit for being part of a hot pace and lasting to win. I find fewer excuses for the runners who had an advantageous race shape – like Shagaf and ADVENTIST – and couldn’t make more of an impact. But the biggest indictment is that TROJAN NATION, a maiden who was well beaten by the likes of Cupid and Hoffenheim at Santa Anita and came into the Wood with a career-best Beyer of 74, very nearly won.
Other than perhaps Outwork, who had the race shape against him and still prevailed, there’s no one out of this race I’m interested in for the Derby.
Outwork, a giant colt, benefited by drawing an outside post, so he had a clear run into the first turn. He and Matt King Coal went into the turn together, with Outwork on the outside. He stayed in that spot all the way down the backstretch and into the far turn, edged to the front midway on the turn without being asked, drifted toward the inside after clearing Matt King Coal, and was all out to hold off Trojan Nation, who rallied along the rail.
Trojan Nation, who was second, had no early speed and was last along the inside into the first turn. He closed on the leaders on the far turn while continuing to hug the rail, squeezed through a narrow opening between the rail and Matt King Coal a furlong out, was on Outwork’s hip with a sixteenth to go, inched closer in the final yards, but couldn’t quite get by in time.
Adventist, who was third, broke well but tossed his head about heading into the first turn when TALE OF S’AVALL crossed over in front of him, raced in the clear in sixth around the first turn and down the backstretch, was angled four paths wide on the far turn, was outrun in upper stretch, then closed anew late, but I think that was far more a function of Outwork and Matt King Coal slowing down than Adventist finishing.
Matt King Coal, who was fourth, broke half a step slowly but then was sent between horses to make the top around the first turn, with Outwork shadowing him. He led narrowly down the backstretch and into the far turn, tried to stay with Outwork as the field neared the top of the stretch while appearing to want to slightly drift out, looked spent when Outwork tightened things up on him in midstretch, but only lost third in the closing yards.
Shagaf, who finished fifth, broke a bit slowly, checked slightly behind the erratic Adventist into the first turn, then settled into seventh as the leaders sped away. He closed a big gap into the far turn while inside, had to await room ever so slightly midway on the turn before a clear path opened right in front of him, bumped with Tale of S’Avall in upper stretch while securing room, but was outrun by Trojan Nation and Adventist in the closing yards while unable to get past Matt King Coal. He also switched to his wrong lead near the finish, but that might have been from shying from the tire tracks where the starting gate had been placed. He had a few minor incidents in the race, but he just doesn’t seem to be progressing.
Tale of S’Avall, who was sixth, was guided toward the rail during the run into the first turn and was mid-pack, along the rail, around the first turn. He followed Matt King Coal down the backstretch, started to be niggled at with a half-mile to go, drifted a bit off the rail nearing upper stretch to get a clear run at the leaders, bumped with Shagaf in upper stretch, and was outrun through the lane.
FLEXIBILITY, who was seventh, raced between and just in front of Tale of S’Avall and DALMORE around the first turn and down the backstretch, started to be asked to hold his position into the far turn, but had no response and yielded without a fight.
Dalmore, who finished last of eight, looked a bit uncomfortable when Outwork crossed over in front of him going into the first turn, took up a position three paths wide, outside of Tale of S’Avall and Flexibility, around the first turn and up the backstretch, entered the far turn three paths wide, was outrun midway on the turn and faded.
Maybe Danzig Candy
Have to agree Trojan Nation is best bred horse going into derby. Connections clearly had their sights on the Wood and didn't care what happened before that. The race was a real G1 race - look at the Beyers at Florida and Keeneland. With distance limitations of top contenders and fact Trojan Nation seems bred to run all day, the KD could be very interesting.
Initially I thought the Wood was a race to throw out due to the maiden finishing second. But Trojan Nation actually has a very, very good pedigree, which implies he should want to route and mature late. He may not have enjoyed the speed-favoring surface out here in CA. He may, in other words, not actually be a tomato can. Thus, the lightly raced Outwork shouldn't necessarily be totally dismissed for having narrowly beaten him. As for Shagaf, I thought he was quite professional when waiting for room early, but it was worrisome to see how badly he appeared to tire late. In all honesty I don't think any of these will make my Derby ticket, but the race may have been better than it first appeared.
I think Outwork is being too easily dismissed. That was a pretty game effort on the front end. These are not "milk cows". That was very quick early and really slow late but he was hounded most of the way. The final time on that track is irrelevant given the condition of the surface. Destin was all out to beat Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby (who broke the track record). Brodys Cause was far back in the TB Derby and just came back and won the Blue Grass. Outwork looks a lot like Bodemeister who could go a long way on the front end. I like Pletchers hand right now. Nyquist will be overbet and there will be lots of good options out there. Full disclosure, I bet Destin at 16-1 in the future book.
Agree with all these comments "Wood" colts or NY BASED colts just not same caliber as the west coast colts "Woodies" have been irrelevant seems like decades now NY racing ain't what it used to be.....
I'm a long time Big A fan, but the serious contenders just don't show... This race was trash and any horse fan knows it.Says a lot about Aqueduct to have a million dollars race with milk cows in contention
Forget the name of the race, these horses are not that good. Slow off track or not. Typical also rans
First of all, the maiden should have won. The rider got very timid in there. He had a chance at the top of the stretch to at least swing him out to the middle so he'd have an option in mid-stretch - an option that definitely would have opened up for him had he made the correct move initially. But if you're going to commit to the inside, don't stop riding! In any case, I don't see how a case can be made for any of these in the KD. Shagaf came into the race with very stagnant Beyers. I was surprised that Ortiz chose him over My Man Sam. It will be VERY interesting to see if Leperoux i removed from MMS in favor of Ortiz now or does Ortiz stick with Shagaf in the KD? While nothing is impossible for a trainer like Chad brown, I am shocked they are actually going forward with Shagaf to the KD. One of the most telling past performance indicators in the KD is finish position in the most recent prep (plus overall finish position). Horses who run 4th rarely win. Giacamo ran 4th, I believe, but at least he was closing. I think Mine That Bird ran 4th, also, I could be wrong, but what those two have in common is that they weren't even highly considered at any point throughout their early 3yo seasons. The point is that highly rated horses, or well bet horses, who run 4th in their final preps do not win the KD. That rules out Shagaf, and Moyahem, in my book.
that had to be one of the worst race calls in history - I mean pathetic. It's a premier race and he called the wrong horse over and over again. He should be fired. He's a terrible race caller, in general. I've never understood why he was picked for this prestigious job, I'd much prefer the #2 man, but regardless I don't know how NYRA can let this utter failure go without making a change?
Will be another year with no Wood horse hitting the board in the Derby.