Tax tries to add to Derby point total in wide-open Wood Memorial

Aqueduct’s final Kentucky Derby prep, the Grade II, $750,000 Wood Memorial, is set for Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile heat drew a field of 11 looking for vital Derby points. The winner will receive 100 points, the runner-up 40, third 20 and fourth 10. Post time for the Wood Memorial, Race 10 on an 11-race program, is 6 p.m. EST.

#1 TAX (9-2) has shown a proclivity for extended distances, taking the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes over this course last time out. He was also third in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen, and broke his maiden going 1 1/16th-miles at Keeneland in October. TAX has produced some of the best speed figures in this field too. He has the speed to protect his inside position under Junior Alvarado, and the tune-up works are strong. Exclude TAX at your own risk.

#3 HOFFA’S UNION (6-1) galloped by 15 lengths in his only start to date; a maiden heat at Laurel. He was clearly superior to his maiden foes, but it remains to be seen how he’ll handle the stakes ranks. HOFFA’S UNION will almost certainly receive competition for the lead in the Wood Memorial. However, trainer Mark Casse usually spots his charges very responsibly. Dylan Davis will be aboard.

#2 TACITUS (5-2, morning-line favorite) took the Tampa Bay Derby when last seen, but the race didn’t come back fast. However, he could improve in his second start at three, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to stay aboard. TACITUS should be in the picture in deep stretch.

#4 HAIKAL (7-2) got an ideal setup to win the one-mile Gotham last time out. His pedigree doesn’t suggest he’ll appreciate the stretchout, so he’s best used underneath. Rajiv Maragh has the assignment.

The play: $3 exacta box 1/3, $4 win 1 ($10)

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