Aqueduct | Race 10 | Post Time 5:52 p.m. (ET) | Go To The TimeformUS PPs
The Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial marks the culmination of New York’s road to the Kentucky Derby. One of the hallmarks of the Wood is the confluence of the local runners exiting the Gotham and the fresh faces shipping up from Florida. That is certainly the case this year, as one of the breakout stars of the Gotham, Cloud Computing, steps up to face a trio of intriguing Florida shippers – Battalion Runner, Irish War Cry, and Mo Town.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is not predicting a situation that is likely to favor one particular running style. True Timber (#5) and Irish War Cry (#8) are expected to head out to the lead, since both have run their best races while racing on the front end. The Pace Projector indicates that Cloud Computing (#7) is also fast enough to be on the frontlines, but Chad Brown has explicitly stated that he is looking for a change of tactics and hopes to see him rally from just off the pace.
Let’s go through the entire field:
#1, GLENNRICHMENT (15-1): This steadily improving Rudy Rodriguez trainee broke his maiden impressively last time, but was aided by an inner track surface that was heavily tilted toward inside speed runners. His speed figures are moving in the right direction, but he would probably need some of the main players to falter in order to crack the top three.
#2, MO TOWN (6-1): He is one of many that comes into this Wood with something to prove. He was considered by many to be one of the Derby favorites coming into this 3-year-old season after closing out his juvenile campaign with a powerful win in the Remsen over a seemingly deep field. However, the Remsen form has completely disintegrated in the months since that race as horse after horse has returned to underperform.
Mo Town appeared to have no excuse for his dull effort at the Fair Grounds last time. He worked out a great trip stalking the run-off leader, but couldn’t even reel in that foe before getting passed from behind by the closers. It’s a feather in his cap that he’s won over this track at today’s distance, but it’s starting to feel like he’s one of those precocious 2-year-olds that just hasn’t developed into this sophomore season. Tony Dutrow’s recent lack of success certainly doesn’t instill confidence that this horse can bounce back. I’m forced to take a stand against him here.
#3, BATTALION RUNNER (2-1): As tempting as it is for handicappers such as myself to dismiss horses like Battalion Runner and his stablemate Always Dreaming, winner of last week’s Florida Derby, Todd Pletcher just seems to have these horses ready to perform at their best in the Derby preps. Success on the first Saturday in May has been a different story for this barn, but Pletcher certainly knows how to get a 3-year-old into the starting gate for that race.
Unlike Always Dreaming, Battalion Runner has run reasonably fast races against maiden and allowance company at Gulfstream. He easily beat a decent horse, Lookin for Eight, in his maiden victory, and then successfully stretched out to two turns last time. The horse he defeated in that N1X allowance race, Beasley, is highly regarded and returned to finish an even fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby while actually improving his TimeformUS Speed Figure slightly. He has the pedigree to get the distance and his tactical speed should be an asset in this race. I’m not sure that he necessarily possesses the brilliance of co-favorite Cloud Computing, but he’s gotten the job done so far and must be included in my wagers.
#4, BONUS POINTS (20-1): Pletcher’s other Wood entrant would need the pace to fall apart to some extent if he has any hopes of making it into the trifecta. He actually didn’t run that badly in the Withers after working out a two- to three-wide trip on a day that was favoring horses racing on the rail. However, he was still well beaten by El Areeb and would need to significantly improve to pose a threat to the top contenders in the Wood.
#5, TRUE TIMBER (12-1): The likely pacesetter encountered completely opposite circumstances in his last two New York preps. He had everything his own way in the Withers, riding a gold rail while setting a slow pace (indicated by blue color-coding in the PPs), and he was able to capitalize on those advantages with his second-place finish. However, he faced a much more difficult task when he returned in the Gotham. That day, he engaged in a racelong duel with El Areeb through taxing early fractions. He faded late, but was beaten only a couple of lengths by El Areeb when it was all said and done. I don’t think he’s good enough to beat the main players here, but he could hang around for a minor award if left alone up front early.
#6, STRETCH’S STONE (15-1): I can’t blame the connections for taking a shot with this New York-bred, but he would need to run significantly faster to have any impact on this race. Nine furlongs seems like a questionable distance for a son of Bustin Stones.
#7, CLOUD COMPUTING (5-2): This lightly raced son of Maclean’s Music might be pretty special. Normal horses aren’t able to cope with being thrown into a major Kentucky Derby prep race after winning their debut going six furlongs just three weeks prior. However, Cloud Computing not only coped, but he distinguished himself with a game second-place finish in one of the fastest preps we’ve witnessed all season. The early pace of the Gotham was quite taxing and Manny Franco had Cloud Computing racing right up on the heels of dueling leaders, True Timber and El Areeb. When eventual winner J Boys Echo made his sweeping move to the front on the far turn, Cloud Computing had every right to give up. However, he gamely battled back in the last quarter-mile, pulling well clear of his early pace rivals en route to an impressive 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
While you don’t necessarily think of Maclean’s Music as a sire of horses that can get classic distances, there is a ton of stamina breeding on the dam’s side of Cloud Computing’s pedigree, and he has clearly inherited some of that. Chad Brown has indicated that he wants this horse placed a bit further off the pace today, which should result in a less demanding trip. It takes an extraordinary horse to win a race like the Wood Memorial in just a third career start, but I think Cloud Computing may just be that kind of animal. He’s the pick.
#8, IRISH WAR CRY (7-2): What happened to this horse in the Fountain of Youth? Sure, he was not allowed to control the pace on the front end, as he had in the Holy Bull, but he was not supposed to so readily capitulate to a horse like Three Rules before they even got to the quarter pole. While he’s clearly better than that most recent effort, he does appear to be a horse that does not react very well when things don’t go his way.
It’s probably for the best that he drew the outside post position, so new pilot Rajiv Maragh can keep him outside and in the clear if True Timber is aggressively ridden to the lead early. The jury’s still out on how talented Irish War Cry actually is, but he has the pedigree to handle the distance and I respect the job that Graham Motion does. I’ll give him this one chance to redeem himself.
I think Cloud Computing (#7) is simply the most talented runner it this race, and I’m not trying to beat him. I’ll primarily use him with Battalion Runner (#3) and Irish War Cry (#8)
Win: 7 (at odds of 2-1 or greater)
Exacta key box: 7 with 3, 8
Trifecta: 7 with 3, 8 with 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
Trifecta: 7 with 2, 4, 5 with 3, 8