10/21/2004 11:00PM

Wood Memorial to be run one week earlier in 2005


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Aqueduct's Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, has been moved to a week earlier on the stakes scheduled for 2005.

Since 1994, the Wood Memorial has been run three weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Next year, the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds will be run four weeks before the Derby, on April 9.

Mike Lakow, the New York Racing Association's handicapper and racing secretary, said the move was made to accommodate horsemen pointing horses to the Triple Crown.

"Every year, it seems that the horsemen want more and more time between races for their horses, especially if they plan on running in the Triple Crown races," Lakow said. "So, putting the Wood Memorial back a week gives them time to get their horses on the top of their game, particularly if they expect to run in the Derby, come back in two weeks for the Preakness and three weeks after that in the Belmont Stakes."

Another change on Aqueduct's 2005 winter and springs stake calendar, which was released on Friday, is the reduction of the purse of the Grade 3 Gotham from $200,000 to $150,000. The Gotham, which will be run on March 19, is a prep for the Wood Memorial.

NYRA renamed the Best Turn Stakes for the late Jimmy Winkfield, the last African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, in 1902 aboard Alan-A-Dale. The Winkfield will be run on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.