Horseplayers can rejoice on Saturday as the Wood Memorial Day card at Aqueduct offers some of the best betting races we have seen in New York in a while, with five graded stakes highlighted by the Grade 1 $1 million Wood Memorial.
After suffering through Thursday’s card that featured three five-horse fields and a six-horse field, things are looking up despite the fact that two of Saturday’s stakes races drew fields of six.
Here is a quick look at the stakes action at the Big A:
Race 4 The Grade 2 Ruffian
The stakes action starts with the Ruffian, which drew a field of six fillies and mares, three of which exit the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie, which was contested in the mud at Laurel Park on Feb. 16. The upset winner of that race was Funny Approval, who took the field gate to wire, returning her backers $45.80.
Runner up My Wandy’s Girl was the beaten favorite and returns here as the 9-5 favorite. She figures to vie for favoritism with Twice the Lady. The Tony Dutrow trainee is coming off a runner up finish in the Grade2 Top Flight Handicap.
Race 8 The Grade 2 Gazelle
The Todd Pletcher trained Princess of Sylmar comes into the Gazelle having won her last four starts by a combined 38 ¾ lengths and takes on graded stakes company for the first time. The filly is the 9-5 second choice in the field of six.
The morning line favorite is the Bill Mott trained Close Hatches (8-5) who is perfect in two starts, beating first level optional claimers in her last outing on March 10 at Gulfstream Park.
Race 9 The Grade 3 Bay Shore
Nine will go to the post in the seven furlong Bay Shore led by Grade 3 Swale winner Clearly Now (5-2) for trainer Brian Lynch. It is a competitive field that includes Grade 2 Hutcheson winner Honorable Dillon, Freed Caposella winner Maleeh (3-1) and west coast invader Salutos Amigos (5-1), who was fifth in the Grade 2 San Felipe in his last outing.
Race 10 The Grade 1 Carter Handicap
Pletcher will saddle the likely favorite Discreet Dancer (8-5), who has won four of his five career starts including taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in his last outing, soundly defeating a pair of runners he races again, Swagger jack (10-1) and Fort Loudon (5-1).
Sahara Sky ships in from the west coast for Jerry Hollendorfer and is coming off wins in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes and San Carlos, earning triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in both of those victories.
Race 11 The Grade 1 Wood Memorial
The Wood is one of the most anticipated Derby preps this spring, with the undefeated Verrazano (4-5) putting in his final prep for the Run for the Roses. The colt was a smart looking winner of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his stakes debut.
The colt will run into another undefeated runner in Vyjack (4-1), who comes into the race perfect in four starts including wins in the Grade 2 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham.
Those two runners will garner much of the attention at the betting windows, but there are eight others that need to earn points in order to make it to Louisville next month.
Normandy Invasion (5-1) had a rough trip in a fifth place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star, while Elnaawi (12-1) was third in in his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Gotham and appears to have some upside potential.
Always a Tiz (15-1) is eligible to bounce back off a disappointing fifth in the Grade 3 Southwest where he caught a sloppy track. The colt was beaten just a neck and a head when third in the Smarty Jones two back.
The Wood and the Grade 1 $750,000 Santa Anita Derby will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. The 90-minute telecast on Saturday starts at 6:00 ET.
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