This Saturday is the Wood Memorial Stakes, Aqueduct's premier prep race for the Run for the Roses. Its winner will receive 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, while the ladies compete in the Gazelle Stakes for their 100 qualifying points for the KY Oaks. But that's not all: the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, The Grade 2 Bayshore, and the Grade 3 Excelsior complete the day's action. Let's preview what's to come:
The $750K Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) — 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, Three-year-olds. Winner receives 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Post Time 5:58 PM ET
RISK TAKING (5-2) is the morning line favorite for trainer Chad Brown, who also sends out CROWDED TRADE (4-1) to complete his strong hand for this event. RISK TAKING enters off a win in the Withers Stakes over this exact trip. CROWDED TRADE was last seen just missing against WEYBURN in the Gotham Stakes. CROWDED TRADE didn't break well that day and will try to turn the tables. PREVALENCE (3-1) is also in the mix, stepping up in company as he hops onto the Derby trail. He's gathered two impressive victories needs qualifying points urgently. WEYBURN (9-2) breaks from the eighth-hole for trainer James Jerkens. He was all heart to hold off CROWDED TRADE last time out, and should welcome the added distance. BROOKLYN STRONG (6-1) makes his return to the races after almost three months off. CANDY MAN ROCKET from the seven-hole seeks to rebound off his disappointing showing in the Tampa Bay Derby. We've got a competitive field for this edition of the Wood.
The $250 Gazelle Stakes (G3) — 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, Three-year-old Fillies only. Winner receives 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. Post Time 5:20 PM ET.
Trainer Chad Brown holds another strong hand, sending the duo of SEARCH RESULTS and THE GRASS IS BLUE. Both enter off the Busher Invitational, which SEARCH RESULTS won and THE GRASS IS BLUE finished third.They'll have to contend with ARMY WIFE, who enters off a race where she earned her highest speed figure in a hard-fought allowance optional claiming victory trainer Trevor McCarthy. ARMY WIFE was making her first start off a layoff too, so we can expect her to be sharper this time, and a move forward would make her tough to beat.
The $300K Carter Handicap (G1) — 7 furlongs, Dirt, Four-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 3:39 PM ET.
Just five horses will line up for this Grade 1 event. They are headed by CHATEAU who enters off two consecutive wins, the most recent one being the Tom Fool Handicap where he ran his highest speed figure. A horse that could make it very interesting is SOUPER STONEHENGE, who was last seen in the Pelican Stakes, dueling with the late ZENDEN, who crushed the Dubai Golden Shaheen field. MIND CONTROL is also with a fighting chance. He worked a five furlong bullet last Saturday. He is a horse who has tussled with phenomenal sprinters and milers, such as VEKOMA, VOLATILE, WHITMORE. Last year he ran in the Carter Handicap and finished sixth to winner VEKOMA. He faces no such threat here, and if he taps into his back class, he could make short work of this field. Great chance to secure his first Grade 1 win.
The $200K Bay Shore Stakes (G3) — 7 furlongs, Dirt, Three-year-olds. Post Time 2:33 PM ET.
DRAIN THE CLOCK will cut back in distance for trainer Joseph Saffie Jr., after his admirable second palace finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes to GREATEST HONOUR. He faces no such threat in this event; he figures to enjoy the class relief. We can expect him to be gunned to the front when the gates open. BEREN is an interesting profile, coming in with two consecutive wins with decent speed figures to shoe. He'll make the trip from Parx Racetrack for this event. BREN does his best running on the front end so he'll have to avoid a detrimental speed duel with the horse above. If there's a pace melt down, it could set up nicely for WHISKEY DOUBLE for trainer Steve Asmussen. WHISKEY DOUBLE enters off a come-from-behind score last month at Oaklawn Park going six furlongs. Prior to that, he'd been battling some tough customers: O BESOS, BIG LAKE, DEFEATER. Two days ago, he worked 3 furlongs at Belmont Park, going 38.09, indicating his sharpness.
The $150K Excelsior Stakes (G3) — 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, Four-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 4:45 PM ET.
HAIKAL will break from the rail for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of DAAHER has yet to find the winner's circle since last year when he won the Gotham Stakes. We last saw him disappoint in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes, where he finished last eighth and last at odds of $6.10 to win. This will be his third start off a layoff as he goes back to routing after sprinting his last two starts. MR. BUFF comes in with two consecutive scores and ran his best speed figures over this mile and one-eighth trip. MR. BUFF delivered a sharp 4 furlong workout in 48.40, the second fastest of 173 at that distance. He is ready to roll with Kendrick Carmouche in the saddle.