A field of eight has assembled to contest the Grade II, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct this Saturday. The race carries 170 points used toward determining the field for the Kentucky Derby (100 points to first place). Among the entrants are Remsen winner MO TOWN and Holy Bull winner IRISH WAR CRY, along with Todd Pletcher’s BATTALION RUNNER and Chad Brown’s CLOUD COMPUTING. Post time for the 1 1/8th-mile Wood Memorial, Race 10 on a 12-race program, is 5:52 p.m. EST. As always, be sure to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
#3 BATTALION RUNNER (2-1, morning-line favorite) should earn his first stakes victory in the Wood Memorial under John Velazquez. The $700k son of Unbridled’s Song has won his last two races for Todd Pletcher, both at Gulfstream Park. He regressed in the speed figure department in his latest outing, but that was understandable after he ran off the screen in his maiden victory. BATTALION RUNNER is bred to appreciate this distance and appears fastest on paper, so he gets the nod.
#2 MO TOWN (6-1) returns to Aqueduct seeking redemption after flopping in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. He was near the top of many a Derby leaderboard after his Remsen victory, but that race has come back to be completely unproductive. Regular rider John Velazquez reported that MO TOWN didn’t handle the Fair Grounds’ surface, but he obviously felt that BATTALION RUNNER gave him his best shot to win this race since Javier Castellano winds up in the saddle of MO TOWN for the Wood. MO TOWN’s Risen Star was too bad to be believed and his odds are too tempting to pass up on.
#6 STRETCH’S STONE (15-1) is an intriguing longshot for trainer Bruce Levine. He broke his maiden late last year going six furlongs in the mud, so he had a lot to prove in his latest start, his first around two turns. He passed the test, placing first through DQ while earning a solid speed figure after nearly 10 weeks between races. He’ll lose Irad Ortiz Jr. to CLOUD COMPUTING, but local sharpie Manny Franco takes the assignment. The tune-up work stands out and Levine is 27% with horses second time out off similar layoffs.
#7 CLOUD COMPUTING (5-2) handled the step up in company in the Gotham Stakes last time but had to settle for second behind Bluegrass contender J BOYS ECHO. Irad Ortiz Jr. sees fit to take the reins on this Chad Brown trainee, but I question the validity of the speed figure and overall quality of the Gotham. View him skeptically at short odds, but don’t let him beat you.
#8 IRISH WAR CRY (7-2) will be excluded from my wagers. His Holy Bull win was remarkable but it came after he was given an easy lead. When aggressively pursued early in the Fountain of Youth last time, he completely packed it in. He’s likely to have company in the form of BATTALION RUNNER and #5 TRUE TIMBER, among others.
The play: $4 exacta 3/7, $3 exacta 3/2,6, $4 win 2 ($14)
DFJ analysis: John Velazquez is listed on nine mounts; chief among them is Wood Memorial favorite BATTALION RUNNER. His first winner of the day is likely to be on favored Wild About Deb in Race 3, and if the 4th is moved to the main, he could earn a riding double on Outplay. Later on, Velazquez rides a pair of stakes favorites in Theory (Bay Shore) and Send It In (Excelsior).
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