Updated on 04/10/2012 3:30PM

Wood Memorial: Gemologist a perfect 5 for 5 after holding off Alpha in the Wood Memorial

Barbara D. Livingston
Gemologist holds off Alpha to win the Wood Memorial and punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher left Aqueduct following last year’s Wood Memorial scratching his head after heavily favored Uncle Mo faded to third, throwing his Kentucky Derby aspirations into disarray.

One year later, Pletcher left Aqueduct Saturday afternoon all smiles and pretty confident he has a big chance to win his second Kentucky Derby after Gemologist outgamed a troubled-trip Alpha to the wire to win Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial by a neck.

It was three lengths back to Teeth of the Dog, who was followed in the order of finish by Tiger Walk, The Lumber Guy, Street Life, and My Adonis. Casual Trick was pulled up around the far turn, owing to the continuing breathing problems that have plagued him since February. Trainer Nick Zito reported later that the horse was sound.

The victory kept Gemologist undefeated from five career starts and by collecting $600,000, he now assures himself a spot in the starting gate for the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, where he is 2for 2.

Pletcher trains Gemologist, a son of Tiznow, for WinStar Farm, with whom he teamed to win the 2010 Derby with Super Saver.

“With his pedigree, with him being by a dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner - one of those at Churchill - and this horse being 2 for 2 at Churchill, I think he’d have as good a chance as anybody,” Pletcher said.

Uncle Mo didn’t get to the 2011 Derby and Pletcher ran 12th with Stay Thirsty. Pletcher said Gemologist “might be the closest thing to having a favorite we ever had.”

It took a while for Saturday’s Wood Memorial to develop as Pletcher though it would, but it eventually did around the first turn.

Gemologist, under Javier Castellano was third and three wide behind a headstrong The Lumber Guy, who was being chased by My Adonis through a quarter in 23.04 seconds, a half-mile in 47.57 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:12.54.

Gemologist made a three-wide move to the leaders approaching the quarter pole, sling-shoted to the lead in upper stretch, and then appeared to loaf until Alpha came to him. At that time, Gemologist got back to running and fended off Alpha to the wire.

On a track that produced slow times all day, Gemologist covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.96 - the third slowest Wood since 1990 - and returned $4.40 as the favorite.

“I was concerned because my horse was still looking around at the crowd,” said Castellano, who won the 2005 Wood on Bellamy Road. “When he saw the horse coming, he took off again.”

Pletcher said Gemologist would ship to south Florida on Sunday and likely train at Palm Meadows until May 1.

Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet and Withers in his last two starts, also earned his way into the Derby with a runner-up finish.

Entering the first turn, jockey Ramon Dominguez had to check Alpha after My Adonis and Casual Trick came over on him.

Dominguez said Alpha quickly recovered, got back on stride, and advanced steadily while along the inside. Dominguez got Alpha into the clear for the stretch drive and it looked like he had dead aim on Gemologist, but couldn’t get past him.

 “Turning for home I got excited, felt like I was going to run down the winner,” Dominguez said. “But that horse … when he felt my pressure he went on again.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, said he anticipates the horse moving onto the Derby.

 “We got beat a ‘zop’ but we’re going on to May 5,” McLaughlin said. “It was a good race and a good test, he did everything right except [win].”





Phil D More than 1 year ago
I was ecstatic to see Gemologist win and his sire won the breeders cup classic twice at 1/4 miles so his genes says he can go the distance.I liked how in the end if the WOOD he has a third gear if some one challenges him. For the Derby,he apparently likes Churchill winning twice on that surface too.
Platano Lajara More than 1 year ago
gemologist had a good race dream trip but in my view yesterday Alpha still is the better horse i think that 1 hole destory him ya seen the frist turn ramon didnt want 2 b that bakk he wanted 2 or 3 in the race and gemologist had frist run
harvey savitsky More than 1 year ago
can you straighten out your words please??
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
the only thing the weekend preps prove is that union rags is still the horse to beat in the run for the roses. this group is mediocre and they take turns beating each other.i am curious about dullahane in the blue grass, his 4th place finish in the juvenile was his dirt try and he has been on synthetic and turf since. romans is taking a curious path with him and it seems he has the most upside than any of the challengers to union rags.barbaro,paddy o prado and animal kingdom all grassed and it seems grass form transfers well to churchill dirt
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
As a fan of Union Rags i'd like to believe that but his race was slow and don't think he had as bad a trip as made out to be. Unless Lepraroux rated him into submission or he bounced a bit off the Florida Derby I may have to reascess the KD at that time. That being said,the FD was only a prep and may have set him up nice for a big run.
Michael More than 1 year ago
Gemologist came back at Alpha just like his daddy did in the famous Tiznow wins it for america race in the BC classic at Belmont just after 9/11. I'm not counting this horse out. He will be a continder if he gets the trip in the derby.
Rob Beaudoin More than 1 year ago
I don't know who is going to win the Derby, but I'll tell you what, I'd be shocked if Gemologist won it. I don't go by breeding I go by watching, and I don't believe this horse wants classic distances against elite competition. He also was lugging in and out down the stretch which in addition to his akward action in front makes me believe he may not be the soundest animal either. I think he'll be a solid miler. IMO
John Howland More than 1 year ago
It's not that I disagree,but I'm wondering who you're giving "elite" status to?
WILL More than 1 year ago
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
I think your right about Alpha. Regardless of the trouble he had he was still poised to go by and didn't but Alpha isn't a top horse at this time and the fact that Mclaughlin tried to duck the perceived better horses only shows that. Also Tiznow isn't running. I'll believe Gemologist when I see it.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
There is nothing that I'd like to see more than a Tiznow colt win the triple crown, because he was such a great race horse. go Gemenologist go !!!!!
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
I give props to both horses. Trip handicappers probably will give Alpha an equal if higher figure than Gemologist given his inside outside trip. Winner looks like he loves to compete so I'll be using both in my tri and super box. Nice prep race for the Run for the Roses.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Gemologist is by Tiznow out of Crystal Shard. Big Red? Not in the first 5 generations. 1:50 does tend to be the Mendoza line for me, but it was a slow track for ALL races. Hence, Beyer Speed Figures - this is what they are for. Compare different times at different tracks versus how all races at all levels were run on a particular day. It allows you to compare different races at different tracks on different days with a basic barometer. A filter if you will that gives you a clue to the unpredictability of a particular horse race. Then they run the race and the numbers are out the window.
Curtis V Slewster More than 1 year ago
Gemologist, out of TIZNOW, out of who ? ALPHA too........ Curtis V Slewster
MJP More than 1 year ago
Pathetically slow race (1:51) deserves an 83 Beyer. Embarassing for a major Derby prep.
WILL More than 1 year ago
100 exact smiling tonight!
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
The pace was definitely honest and unlike what they do in other places, the track wasn't souped up. I wouldn't give Alpha the edge even though he checked, Alpha was along side Gemologist and was poised to go by and couldn't. None the less final time was slow, probably no Derby winner in here.