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Wood Memorial: Dive into deep Kentucky Derby prep field

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Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial is the final of six stops on the Aqueduct road to the Kentucky Derby 2024 and 100-50-25-15-10 qualifying points are available to the top five eligible finishers from the field of 13.

Seven horses in the Wood Memorial field have earned Kentucky Derby points, and five of them will need to finish first or second on Saturday to qualify for the run for the roses. Deterministic already is in after his win in the Gotham (G3), and El Grande O needs to help his chances with a top-three finish.

Recent winners of the Wood Memorial include Mo Donegal, who went on to win the 2022 Belmont Stakes. In 2019 Tacitus was second in the Belmont and the Travers (G1) and third in the Kentucky Derby. Vino Rosso ended his career with $4.8 million in earnings and a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. The 2015 Wood winner Frosted won the Met Mile (G1) and the Whitney (G1) the following year ending with earnings of $3.9 million.

Here is the analysis for the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial with morning-line odds from the Horse Racing Nation staff. It is scheduled as race 10 of 11 with post time set for 4:07 p.m. EDT.

1. Resilience, 6-1. Into Mischief – Bill Mott / John Velazquez – 5: 1-1-1 – $94,630. Resilience needed four starts to get his first win, which happened at Gulfstream with Lasix for the first time going two starts. He moved onto the Derby trail in the Risen Star (G2) and finished fourth behind three horses who won at least one Derby prep. Resilience has 10 Derby points. Mott won the Wood Memorial in 2019 with Tacitus. Blinkers on. Use underneath.

2. El Grande O, 8-1. Take Charge Indy – Linda Rice / Dylan Davis – 11: 3-5-2 – $435,000. El Grande O will make his 12th start since June with 10 top-three finishes that include two wins in New York-bred stakes races and hitting the board in three Derby-trail races at Aqueduct. He now has 30 Derby points, so he will need a top-three finish in the Wood to get a spot in the run for the roses. Use underneath.

3. Lonesome Boy, 20-1. Nationhood – Hugo Padilla / Adam Bowman – 10: 3-2-2 – $126,444. Lonesome Boy needed seven tries to get his first victory, which came in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Parx by 12 lengths in December. He shipped to Aqueduct and won a starter allowance. The Washington-bred was third in an allowance at Parx and then won a stakes at the Philadelphia track going two turns. Toss.

4. Deterministic, 5-2. Liam’s Map – Christophe Clemente / Joel Rosario – 2: 2-0-0 – $222,750. Deterministic was an impressive debut winner at Saratoga in August but did not race again until this year. After training smartly in Florida, the connections were looking for an allowance race but they did not fill, so he was shipped to Aqueduct for the Gotham (G3). He was up for the task as he rallied to win by two lengths. Deterministic won 50 Derby points that day, which all but guarantees the son of Liam’s Map a spot in the Derby. On that day he had the look of a horse who will handle longer distances. Top choice.

5. Protective, 20-1. Medaglia d’Oro – Todd Pletcher / Kendrick Carmouche – 2: M-1-0 – $22,920. Protective makes his first start in a Grade 2 stakes on the Kentucky Derby trail, and he is still a maiden. He debuted at Saratoga and raced wide to finish a close second in a field of 10. He returned to the races at Tampa Bay Downs last month and finished third but was disqualified to fourth after drifting in in the final turn. Blinkers on. Toss.

6. Evening News, 20-1. Nyquist – Michael Pino / Jareth Loveberry – 6: 2-1-1 – $84,600. Evening News was claimed out of his maiden victory from Steve Asmussen three races back for $50,000 at Turfway Park. His last four starts were on the Tapeta surface on the Kentucky track. The son of Nyquist then set the pace in a mile allowance running second and then overwhelmed a field of 10 to beat winners by more than eight lengths. Toss.

7. Merit, 20-1. Mastery – Saffie Joseph Jr. / Edwin Gonzalez – 3: 1-1-1 – $47,980. Merit won his debut at Gulfstream in November by 10 lengths as a heavy favorite. He stretched out in distance in a pair of allowances at the Florida trackm running third and then second while being part of the pace in all three starts. Saffie Joseph won the Wood last year with Lord Miles. Toss.

8. Elysian Meadows, 15-1. City of Light – Bill Mott / Jose Lezcano – 3: 2-0-0 – $89,750. Elysian Meadow won the first two starts of his career in New York-bred company. In November he broke his maiden going a mile against 10 and then won an allowance sprinting in a large field. Trainer Bill Mott sent him to Tampa to try the Derby trail, and he ran fourth in the Sam F. Davis (G3) to earn 4 Derby points. Toss.

9. Tuscan Sky, 7-2. Vino Rosso – Todd Pletcher / Manny Franco – 2: 2-0-0 – $83,000. Tuscan Sky sold for $200,000 at auction as a yearling and won at first asking in January at Aqueduct by more than five lengths at 7-2, beating a field of six. The following month at Fair Grounds he won an allowance in a field of three. Tuscan Sky pressed the pace in both races, which were run on wet, sealed tracks. Todd Pletcher won the Wood Memorial seven times since 2010, including three of the last five years. Use underneath.

10. Gettysburg Address, 30-1. Constitution – Dallas Stewart / Emmanuel Esquivel – 5: 1-0-1 – $80,796. Gettysburg Address won his debut at Ellis Park in August at 8-1 against a field of 11. He then tried the Derby trail and finished fourth twice in the Street Sense (G3) at Churchill Downs and the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, getting 4 Derby points. As the favorite, Gettysburg Address finished fourth in allowances at Oaklawn and Turfway Park. Blinkers on. Toss.

11. Society Man, 20-1. Good Magic – Danny Gargan / Luis Rivera Jr. – 4: 1-0-1 – $56,705. Society Man finished eighth in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct as still a maiden and then came back a month later to get his first victory going a mile against a field of seven with first-time Lasix. Toss.

12. Deposition, 30-1. Constitution – Uriah St. Lewis / Dexter Haddock – 8: 1-0-1 – $62,275. Deposition once again will ship to the Big A to race on the Kentucky Derby trail. He was fourth in the nine-furlong Withers and picked up 2 Derby points and then was not competitive in the one-mile Gotham, finishing sixth. In both of those stakes he was a big long shot. Toss.

13. Uncle Heavy, 8-1. Social Inclusion – Robert Reid Jr. / Mychel Sanchez – 4: 3-0-0 – $293,580. Uncle Heavy won three of his four starts, beginning with a maiden win in October at Parx Racing. In a pair of stakes for Pennsylvania-breds, he was fifth after a bad start and then won going two turns. Trainer Butch Reid has had great success shipping to Aqueduct for big races, as was the case when Uncle Heavy rallied from a stalking position to win the Withers by a nose to earn 20 Derby points. Uncle Heavy ran the best race of his career as the distance increased to 1 1/8 miles. Win contender.

Summary: It has been raining in the New York area for four days, but the weather is supposed to clear ahead of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday.

After Deterministic won the Gotham (G3) last month, the Christophe Clement runner moved up to the no. 2 spot on my list of Kentucky Derby contenders. His victory was impressive, and he should move forward as a horse who will thrive as the distance increases. Deterministic is the top choice.

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