Gemologist headlines a field of eight contenders in the $1,000,000 Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (Grade 1) to be run Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, New York. Heavily favored at a morning line of 8-5, Todd Pletcher’s Gemologist comes into Saturday’s race off an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in which he won the one mile race by an impressive seven lengths. The undefeated son of Tiznow has four victories including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
With only one month to go before the Kentucky Derby, the race is on to garner the graded earnings needed to make the Kentucky Derby’s limited field. As purse sizes increase, so does the minimum amount needed to make the Derby field. It appears that this year’s contenders will need at least $200,000 in graded earnings to make the list. With only one graded stakes win, Gemologist needs to win or place in the Wood Memorial in order to move up from his current spot at number 30 on the graded earnings list.
“We just want to get in a good position early on and have things go smoothly and finish up,” said Todd Pletcher on a national conference call earlier this week. “I mean the most important thing for him, moving forward, is to accomplish enough graded earnings that we're able to get in the Kentucky Derby field, so that sort of suggests, looking at the table right now, that first or second would take care of that and third would put him on the bubble. So we're hoping for a strong performance and it goes without saying we'd love to win.”
Like Gemologist, the 5-2 second choice in the field, Kiaran McLaughlin’s Alpha, needs the graded earnings a good finish in Saturday’s Wood would provide. Currently at number 22 on the graded earnings list, Alpha has a bit more room to work with than Gemologist.
Unlike Gemologist, Alpha has experience and success over the Aqueduct course. Alpha exits a win in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes which followed a win in the Countfleet Stakes, both at Aqueduct. He earned Brisnet speed figures of 100 for both efforts. Also, Alpha is one of the many successful Sophomores coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“I feel like he definitely handles the run just fine and it cannot hurt when the horse is coming from two previous races at the same track, so nothing's going to be new for him,” said Alpha’s jockey Ramon Dominguez.
As the fourth choice in the field at odds of 8-1, My Adonis appears to be ready for a big effort. This Kelly Breen runner comes into the Wood off a second place finish to Hansen in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes. Prior to that race, My Adonis finished third behind Algorithms and Hansen in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. A bullet work in which My Adonis completed four furlongs in :47 over the Aqueduct course earlier this week is another indicator that this son of Pleasantly Perfect is ready to run.
An interesting newcomer is 8-1 The Lumber Guy, whose sire Grand Slam died earlier this week due to heart failure at the age of seventeen. The Lumber Guy is undefeated in two starts in which he won by a combined 13 lengths. In the Miracle Wood Stakes this front-running colt earned a 103 Brisnet speed figure; in his previous start, he earned a 99. Impressive figures for such an inexperienced runner.
Rounding out the field is Nick Zito’s Casual Trick at 20-1, Michael Matz’s maiden winner, Teeth Of The Dog, at 15-1, Street Life, the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, at odds of 4-1, and Tiger Walk, who exits a fourth place finish in the Gotham Stakes, at odds of 15-1.
The race is the 9th on Saturday’s card with a scheduled post time of 5:15 p.m. The race can be seen as part of “The Road to the Derby” series on NBC. The broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. and will include the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park and the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby