>Go to the PPs for the Wood Memorial / Post Time: 5:30 PM EDT
Saturday’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct marks the end of the Derby prep season in NY. Run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, it carries a purse of $1 million and has drawn a field of seven 3yo colts.
The three main players in the Wood are #4 Frosted, #5 El Kabeir, and #6 Daredevil, and they are expected to take most of the money in this race. Their four opponents aren’t no-hopers, but one of them will have to step up his game in a big way in order to pull off the upset. That would actually be a welcome development in this season of Derby Prep races, which has been dominated by established form to this point.
Let’s take a look at the TimeformUS Pace Projector for the Wood.
>Click here to watch a quick video on how Pace Projector works.
#1 Tiz Shea D and #2 Toasting Master were both up close to a fast early pace in last month’s Gotham Stakes, and they are expected to be out in front of this field on another fast pace for the opening half-mile. They will not be far ahead of the three favorites, who all have a tracking style and will be trying to establish position within range of the pace. #3 Lieutenant Colonel is a designated speed from a Run Style standpoint, but he may not be fast enough to be part of the pace here, and the late-running #7 Tencendur will save his best for last.
Here’s the field, in post position order:
#1 is Tiz Shea D. Privately purchased and turned over to the great Bill Mott after a highly impressive debut win going short, he stepped up and stretched out effectively in the Grade 3 Gotham last time. He was kept close to that quick early pace, but he was in a perfect stalking position while saving the ground, and he never had to leave the rail while making his run in the stretch. He needs to improve to win this race. But he is certainly eligible to do that in what will be just his 3rd career start. At the end of the day, there was plenty to like about his Gotham. He managed to land 2nd after keeping close, while the 1st-and 3rd-place finishers came from far back in the field. He did that despite it being just his 2nd career start. (By contrast, it was El Kabeir’s 8th, and he was already a multiple graded stakes winner.) He improved his TFUS Speed Figure to a solid 94. If he goes forward again, something we think is highly possible, he can contend here, which makes him one of the more interesting horses in this race at a price.
#2 is Toasting Master. Speed-type earned big new career top figure of 95 for game try after taking part in a race-long pace battle in the Gotham. Maybe he moved up because of the wet track, but it is difficult to deny that he ran one of the better races in the field that day considering the dynamics. Whether he can duplicate that effort, or improve upon it, as he seems likely to have to do, seems a big question as he takes on more distance vs. some better horses. Surprising or not, we aren’t discounting how well this horse ran last time.
#3 is Lieutenant Colonel. He shipped up from Gulfstream with just a debut win behind him to try the Gotham, and he finished last, over 20 lengths behind at the end. But don’t just breeze past this horse in your handicapping. After breaking slowly from the gate, he endured a very tough trip trying to drive his way into contention while wide throughout. He actually made it to the top of the stretch before throwing in the towel, but he did an awful lot of work in that race, all of it masked by a mundane-looking running line. He may not be this kind of horse right now, but his connections clearly think pretty highly of him, and, whether he turns out to be this kind of horse or not, he can easily be given another chance.
#4 is Frosted. Everyone’s 3yo to watch after that well-publicized tough trip while against the grain of a strong inside bias in the Remsen (he actually went off favored over the much more accomplished Upstart in the Holy Bull), he will be trying to establish himself as a legit Derby horse in this race. So far, he has improved, however slightly, from that Remsen try. He has paired up TFUS Speed Figures of 97 for his first two starts as a 3yo. He will clearly need to find more than that, and quickly, if he is to continue on this path. The positive view of Frosted covers the good Remsen try, which came over this track and trip; the fact that he actually ran fine, and improved slightly to a new top figure, when 2nd to Upstart in his 3yo debut; and that he raced strongly, and perhaps a bit keenly, with his new blinkers, to take over on a solid pace before weakening suddenly in the Fountain of Youth last time. We get anyone taking that view of this horse. It’s something we would likely do ourselves were he to wind up being an interesting price. But it seems doubtful that he will be.
#5 is El Kabeir. The field’s lone multiple graded stakes winner, he seems to be having a tough time getting respect as a true Derby candidate. He is a three-time graded stakes winner, all of those wins coming around two turns. He has displayed superior versatility in those wins: rating a moderate pace in wire-to-wire score in the Kentucky Jockey Club last November; tracking the pace while wide before overwhelming the Jerome in early January; and then taking back and coming with a strong late run from behind a fast pace to annex the Gotham. Despite all of that, he closed at 47/1 in the last round of the Derby Future Wager, making him the longest price of the individual betting interests. That likely has something to do with the fact that each of those wins can be rather easily dressed up. The Derby preps contested in NY to this point seem to have attracted some of the weakest fields, relative to other parts of the country, and El Kabeir’s versatility, while an asset that he cannot be given enough credit for, has allowed him to pull one perfect trip after another. He even managed to get a perfect in-out run into that fast pace last time, while 3rd finisher Classy Class, who was making the same run, got jammed up in traffic. El Kabeir may be facing a tougher field this time, but it is hard to argue with anyone who wants to bet him as the likely third choice.
#6 is Daredevil. To our way of thinking, this supremely talented colt has only a distance question to answer. The BC Juvenile offered no evidence one way or another, as he endured an impossible trip from a tough post in an effort that is best forgiven. Because he was such a short price for his 3yo debut in the Swale, his runner-up effort there may be viewed by some as a disappointment. We don’t view it that way at all. In fact, it looks to us like a perfect place for him to start as a 3yo. After failing to break sharply from his inside post, his rider elected to look to edge out into the clear through the early stages, rather than race forward for position, and that allowed a fast rival to establish a clear lead. Daredevil did his best all through the stretch, but with that horse not coming back, he settled for 2nd best. He earned a new career top TFUS Speed Figure of 104 for that effort, which makes him fastest coming into the Wood. If he gets the distance, we think he is better than these horses, and his pedigree offers some hope that he will be able to get this far. He gets a solid Breeding Rating of 86 for dirt routes, and his half-brother, Albertus Maximus, won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap over this 9-furlong distance with a TFUS Speed Figure of 120 a few years back.
#7 is Tencendur. Likable NY-bred tried hard in both the Withers and Gotham, but he simply was not good enough in those races. His race-best Late Pace Rating of 89 offers some hope that he can come running late to snag a piece of this rich race, but he is going to need to catch all the breaks.
The Play: We like Daredevil in the Wood, and think there is a good chance that he can go at least this far. We aren’t betting him to win as the likely favorite, but we will press him in multi-race wagers. Within the race, we will try to get Tiz Shea D and Lieutenant Colonel to step forward. We will use them underneath in exactas.