04/02/2012 2:49PM

Wood Memorial: Tiger Walk to get class test

Tom Keyser
Tiger Walk will try to prove himself worthy of a Kentucky Derby start in Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The connections of Tiger Walk could have shipped their 3-year-old to Hawthorne this weekend if they were looking for an easier spot in which to try to accrue enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

But in opting to take on the undefeated Gemologist and the highly regarded Alpha in Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, trainer Ignacio Correas IV thought it better to find out sooner than later if he should make a run for the roses on May 5.

“If you cannot beat Gemologist and Alpha, you don’t have any business going to the Derby,” said Correas, who trains Tiger Walk for the Sagamore Farm of Kevin Plank. “If they’re better than you at this time of the year, they’re going to be better in another four weeks. You might catch up to them with more distance, but to be able to go there you need to beat those horses or be within a length of them. I still think the toughest horses in the country are Union Rags and Creative Cause. If you cannot beat these ones, you cannot dream about beating those other ones.”

[WOOD MEMORIAL: News updates, contender replays, watch the race live]

Tiger Walk, a son of Tale of the Cat, is making his third trip to New York from Maryland. On Feb. 4, he was beaten five lengths by Alpha when third in the Grade 2 Withers Stakes. On March 3, in the Grade 3 Gotham, Tiger Walk was beaten nine lengths when fourth to 2-year-old champion Hansen. Tiger Walk broke from the outside post in the 13-horse Gotham and had a wide trip. He was five to six wide turning into the stretch and dove to the inside late, splitting horses and missing third by a head to Finnegans Wake.

“I don’t think he really enjoyed that inner track, but on the outer track with the wider turns, I think he’s going to like that,” Correas said. “We are hoping for a very good effort, hopefully way more than he showed in the last two races.”

Correas said John Velazquez, last year’s Kentucky Derby winning jockey, would ride Tiger Walk for the first time in the Wood, run at 1 1/8 miles.

On Monday, Tiger Walk worked four furlongs in 48.20 seconds at Pimlico.

Entries for the Wood will be taken Wednesday. Gemologist, who is undefeated in four career starts, will likely go off the favorite. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is coming off a seven-length allowance win at Gulfstream on March 16. On Sunday, he worked five furlongs in 1:00.44 at Palm Meadows. He is expected to fly here Wednesday along with other south Florida horses for the Wood and undercard stakes.

Others expected for the Wood include Gotham runner-up My Adonis, recent overnight stakes winner Street Life, The Lumber Guy, who is 2 for 2 with a victory in the Miracle Wood Stakes last out, and Casual Trick.

On Monday, trainer Mark Casse said Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective would make his next start in the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14. Dale Romans said Cozzetti, third in the Tampa Derby, will run in the Arkansas Derby on April 14. Trainer Michael Matz said the Illinois Derby is his first preference for recent maiden winner Teeth of the Dog, but the Wood is an option if he can’t get into the Illinois Derby.