The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct has been the key prep in recent years, with Derby winners Funny Cide, Monarchos, and Fusaichi Pegasus using it as their final tune-up on the road to Louisville. In this year's edition, a field of eight 3-year-olds faced the starter, with runaway allowance winner Bellamy Road and Sham Stakes winner Going Wild sent off as the 5-2 co-favorites.
Bellamy Road ran away from them by 17 1/2 lengths.
When the field got underway, jockey Javier Castellano rushed Bellamy Road to the front right away out of the 2 hole and took the ground-saving path along the rail. With 12-1 shot Scrappy T hot on his heels, the co-favorite set quick early fractions of 23.13, 46.08, and 1:09.84 through the backstretch run. Turning for home, Scrappy T could not continue the torrid pace and backed out of contention, Going Wild, who was third behind the pacesetters, was asked for run on the turn by Victor Espinoza but showed nothing, drifting out and finishing last. Bellamy Road widened with every stride through the lane under mild urging, 10 lengths clear at the 1/8 pole. With 6-1 shot Survivalist making a futile late rally to get up for second, Bellamy Road finished 17 1/2 lengths clear at the finish in a time of 1:47.16 over the fast track, a new stakes record and tying Riva Ridge's track record. It was 3/4 lengths back from Survivalist to Scrappy T in third.
The Wood Memorial
Purse: $750,000 Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show
3 Bellamy Road Castellano 7.10 4.90 4.10
4 Survivalist Migliore 6.10 5.00
1 Scrappy T Bejarano 5.90
Javier Castellano and Bellamy Road before the race. Castellano said, "He wasn't pressured. He wants to go
longer, no question about it. The more distance, the better. He's an
impressive horse. He's really unbelievable. He looked beautiful today.
I'll keep my fingers crossed and pray that everything works out good."
Bellamy Road took the lead from the start and never looked back. Winning trainer Nick Zito said, "This was a great day. He is a tremendous horse. I thank (owner) Mr. (George) Steinbrenner and his family for sending him to us. (Jockey) Javier Castellano is in the zone. I said let's take our chance. Boy, he was unbelievable today. He just kept going. I hope he stays this way for four weeks, and he'll have a good shot, too. He is a terrific horse and the jockey did a great job."
Zito will send out Sun King in Keeneland's Grade 1 Blue Grass and Andromeda's Hero in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby. Good showings by both colts in their respective races, and Zito could have five horses in the Kentucky Derby. "No question about it," Zito said. "We're very grateful for the opportunity we're in. It's been an unbelievable run so far. Everything's just going great and falling into place."
Second and third place finishers Survivalist and Scrappy T finally cross the finish line.
Shug McGaughey, trainer of second place finisher Survivalist, said "I thought he
ran a good race. We had to get into the action earlier than we wanted to,
but he gutted it out and he looked good." Regarding Bellamy Road: "I was impressed with him. He's a pretty talented colt. It's going to be different on Derby Day, since he won't be on the
lead by himself. But Nick (Zito) is in a very good spot right now." Jockey Richard Migliore added, "I'm proud of my horse because I had to get after him earlier than I wanted to because they were getting away from me. I was worried at the sixteenth pole that it would cost me second, but he kept gutting it out." McGaughey said there are no plans yet for the Phipps Stable homebred and added that the Kentucky Derby was a "very slim possibility."
Forest Danger winner of the Carter Handicap.
On the undercard of the Wood Memorial was the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, a 7-furlong sprint with a purse of $350,000. A field of six went to post, with Forest Danger sent off as the 4-5 favorite over 4-1 second choice Mass Media. When the gate opened, Mike Luzzi sent 5-1 shot Don Six to a clear lead through a quarter in 21.59 and a half in 43.30, with 9-2 third choice Medallist keeping contact in stalking position. Turning for home three-wide, jockey Rafael Bejarano asked for run from favored Forest Danger and got it, as he closed strong an drew 1 3/4 lengths clear of Medallist at the finish, in a time of 1:20.46. It was another 1 1/4 length back to Don Six in third.
Seth Benzel, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, said "We knew there was going to be a lot of pace to our
inside. We told Rafael [Bejarano, jockey] to go along and see how things developed in there. He was probably a little bit farther back than we thought he would be, but Rafael did a great job of judging the pace. He got him in contention when he needed to. Everything worked out very well. I don't know if we'll try to stretch him out to a mile or just keep sprinting. One concern we had today was that we didn't want to find ourselves outside of
Medallist in the stretch. We were directly to his outside, but it was never a problem"
Lost in the Fog wins the Bay Shore Stakes
Also at Aqueduct, six 3-year-olds went to post in the Grade 3 Bay Shore, a $150,000 sprint over 7 furlongs. Under regular rider Russell Baze, overwhelming 1-5 favorite Lost in the Fog toyed with the 5 other horses in the field, setting an easy pace of 45.39 down the backstretch, and then widening his margin through the lane for a 4 1/4 length win in 1:21.33 over 10-1 shot White Socks. Lost in the Fog is not Triple Crown nominated.
Winning trainer Greg Gilchrist said, ". I think he was just the best horse in the race today. He just doesn't turn in bad performances. I was a little more concerned with him today. He didn't seem quite as sharp
today. But the horse is a real professional." Lost in the Fog will ship back to Golden Gate and is pointed at the Riva Ridge Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard.