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Rajiv Maragh celebrates as Wicked Strong heads to the winner's circle after the Wood Memorial.
The major New York prep race for the Triple Crown is the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), contested at 1 1/8 miles, one complete circuit of the Aqueduct main track, worth 100 points to the winner under the Road to the Kentucky Derby. A field of 10 three-year-olds went to post on Saturday afternoon, before a crowd of 12,719 enjoying clear skies and temperatures in the mid 50's. Social Inclusion, undefeated in 2 starts both at Gulfstream was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over 3-1 second choice Samraat, a perfect 5-for-5 including the Withers (G3) and Gotham (G3), the major local prep series for the Wood, and 5-1 third choice Uncle Sigh, second behind Samraat in both the Withers and Gotham.
Down the stretch in the Wood
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Wicked Strong Maragh 20.40 7.60 4.20 8 Samraat Ortiz 4.90 3.00 11 Social Inclusion Contreras 2.70 Winning Time: 1:49.31 $2 Exacta 2-8 100.50 $2 Trifecta 2-8-1 381.00 $2 Superfecta 2-8-11-7 4,150.00
Left: Wicked Strong in the winner's circle. Winning owner Don Little said, "Rajiv rode him perfectly. He rode him in the Remsen and did a great job. When we decided to run in this race, we instantly called him. He fits him; he knows him. We talked before the race. He waited, and we were hoping it would go off with the speed like it did in :23 and :47 and a tick and we had something to run at, and he came running."
Right: Wicked Strong returns after the race. Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens said, "When I saw him laying 5 lengths off the lead, just galloping, I really felt we had a big shot. He was really comfortable laying relatively close behind a pretty fast pace. We were looking at the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial, and the closer we got to both races, I decided I was going to train him up to the Wood down in Florida. The horses that come from behind in Florida, the kickback really bothered him down there. Looks like a horse where (the Derby 1 1/4 mile) distance shouldn't bother him."
Left: Wicked Strong in the paddock before the race.
Right: Wicked Strong heads out for the post parade. Winning jockey Rajiv Maragh said, "It all unfolded well. I was going to let the horse dictate where he wanted to be. He fell into a nice groove early, and he finished up really strong. It seemed like he had a lot left, and coming down the lane I was just thinking 'Let's go to the wire first.' It worked out good. He ran awesome in the Remsen, but he was a little green and that might have cost him the race. I felt like I had, probably, the horse to win that day. Today, he was really more mature, more settled, and it made him have a lot more to finish with. He's the Derby favorite right now, in my book, anyway. He showed that more distance is going to be better for him. He's really maturing at the right time now, and there's a lot left in the tank, so I don't think we're at the bottom of him, yet."
Left: Second place finisher Samraat heads out for the post parade. Trainer Rick Violette said, ""It's his best race. It's the first time he's been surrounded and covered up, and he handled it. He came back three times. I thought he was going to be fourth the entire stretch run and he kept finding more, finding more. Good horses rally from this and get better. Other than win, he got a huge education. As long as he comes out of it all right we'll head to Kentucky. I don't think there's anything he can't do."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Social Inclusion returns after the race. Jockey Luis Contreras said, "I don't think he had problems with the distance. I had so much horse before the 1/4 pole, I tried to open up, and he just ran flat. He was trying hard. Today he was so nervous in the post parade. He broke a little bit to the outside, but I pushed two or three times from the gate and he was on his game. I just tried to keep him very strong on the bit. He was very strong from the quarter pole, but that horse just went by him late. He wasn't tired. He didn't give me that kick like he usually does."
The $300,000 Bay Shore Stakes (G3) featured a field of eight 3-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. San Vicente (G2) winner Kobe's Back was sent off as the 7-5 favorite off a 7th place finish in the Rebel (G2). In to challenge him included 4-1 second choice Favorite Tale, undefeated in 3 starts and making his stakes debut here, and 11-2 third choice Oliver Zip, winner of the Fred Capossela last out.
Favorite Tale and 18-1 Loki's Vengeance dueled for the lead through fractions of 22.55 and 45.27 before both tired from the hot pace. 11-1 The Admiral, 4th early, inherited the lead into the stretch through 3/4 in 1:10.26 but 7-1 Coup de Grace, 6th early, came through traffic, outfinishing Oliver Zip by a nose to win on the outside in 1:23.19. It was another 1/2 length back to late-running favorite Kobe's Back third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: Coup de Grace in the winner's circle. Cherie DeVaux, assistant to winning trainer Chad Brown said, "They did a really good job with him at Palm Meadows. He came up here and trained well the couple days he was here."
Right: Coup de Grace returns after the race. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "The way I handicapped the race, it was a lot of speed. Chad and I talked about the race and we tried to take advantage of a lot of speed in the race. We tried to come from behind, quicken it up a little bit. He didn't break that sharply, and it worked out great for me. I was able to relax behind the horses. He finished very strong today."
Left: Second place finisher Oliver Zip in the post parade. The 11-2 third choice stalked the pace 3rd early under Rajiv Maragh, closed well but just missed. The Kelly Breen trainee improved his record to 3 wins and 3 seconds in 6 starts, earning $209,410 for owners George and Lori Hall.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Kobe's Back returns after the race. Jockey Corey Nakatani said, "He slipped a little bit when he broke. He actually broke kinda hard and it slipped away from him. He's a horse that obviously has a lot of talent. He ran at Oaklawn, shipped back home, came back here - he's done a lot of traveling, so he may not have run his best race, but he gave a good effort. All the traveling that he's done had to take a little wind out of his sails. We'll get 'em next time."
On to the Carter Handicap and Gazelle Stakes also on the card.
Past winners of the Wood Memorial
Past winners of the Bay Shore Stakes
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