Jamaica, New York – Going into the Wood Memorial, Hansen is the new number one Kentucky Derby Contender after Union Rags lost the Florida Derby. But don’t count on Hansen holding onto the number one spot for long as Gemologist and Alpha hit the starting gate at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 7th on NBC.
Gemologist and Alpha will be battling it out in the $1 Million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial. Gemologist is currently undefeated in four starts dating back to his two-year-old campaign but hasn’t faced any real Kentucky Derby Contenders to date. Alpha who is undefeated in 2012 winning both the Count Fleet Stakes and the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and defeated Tiger Walk, Speightscity and Stephanoatsee along the way.
There was a bit of an uproar when trainer Kiaran McLaughlin passed on the Florida Derby to run against Union Rags and El Padrino and chose the Wood Memorial. Little did McLaughlin know that Union Rags would get boxed in and El Padrino simply didn’t have the legs so Alpha definitely could have won the race as it was run instead of Take Charge Indy. Alpha has drawn post position one and his morning line odds were 5/2, post time is set for 5:15pm ET and you can watch live coverage on TV on NBC.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez comment on Alpha and his draw from post one in the Wood Memorial. “You can only go by what you feel and see. When I rode him two back, he was coming off a layoff and he got a lot out of the race. He was very strong galloping out even though he’d run a hard race and was really tired. He’s an easy horse to ride — straightforward and definitely bred to go far. He’s got a beautiful stride, a high cruising speed and feels like he’ll go along like that forever.” Ramon Dominguez has been sidelined with a separated collar bone injury he suffered when taking a spill at Aqueduct back on March 18th and has only recently been cleared to ride by physicians.
The undefeated Gemologist has opened as the 8/5 morning line favorite in the Wood Memorial after drawing post position six for the race at One and One Eighth Miles. WinStar Farms Gemologist is a son of Tiznow and his jockey Javier Castellano will get the mount as he tries to ride Gemologist to his fifth consecutive win. Then again I am sure that Castellano would like it six straight victories if he could by winning the Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby.
When Gemologists trainer Todd Pletcher was interviewed earlier this week he had this to say about his rising star. “I feel like he’s had an outstanding winter and spring. Knock on wood, everything has really gone according to plan. The horse physically has blossomed and he’s just been a pleasure to train all spring. He’s willing in his works, he’s not overzealous, and he’s got a great temperament, and we’ve just been really fortunate that everything’s gone according to plan to this point.
Todd Pletcher continued to comment that “The one situation or position that we’re in is there’s not a lot of margin for error for his Wood Memorial performance; he could really finish third and that’s going to put him on the bubble of graded earnings. It’s important for him to run first or second and give us a good effort.”
Casual Trick is coming off corrective surgery after it was discovered he had a breathing problem and hopes to get back on track. Trainer Nick Zito has also had a difficult year and is in jeopardy of not having a single horse entered in the 138th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs after being a staple over the last two decades. Casual Trick would need to win the Wood Memorial to gather enough Graded Stakes Earnings to get both him and Nick Zito into the starting gate to run for the roses.
Nick Zito has this to say about Casual Trick in an interview this week. “Hopefully, he’ll breathe better. I had a good pattern going into the Gulfstream Park Derby. I thought it was a terrific race and obviously Reveron (the winner) finishing ahead of Union Rags (in the Florida Derby) gives us a little hope. But obviously there’s a bit of anxiety. Basically, we’re counting on the Wood.”
Trainer Kelly Breen will be starting My Adonis from post three after recently finishing second in the Gotham Stakes. One advantage that My Adonis does have and owners Lori and George Hall aren’t shy to talk about is that My Adonis makes Aqueduct his home track and they feel that gives them a big advantage.
“He’s a strong, good-looking horse, and he’s still maturing,” said Lori Hall. “I felt really good about running back against Hansen and I don’t think anyone has a better shot to win the Wood than we do. It’s our home court.”
Winner of the Broad Bush Stakes at Aqueduct is Wood Memorial entrant Street Life trained by Chad Brown. Jockey Junior Alvarado will get the mount and should have lots of room to come from the back of the back in this eight horse field as he has done in both his wins this year.
Trainer Chad Brown had this to say about Street Life. “The longer the better, but whether he’s good enough to face this caliber of horses yet, we’ll have to see. I know the talent is there. We’re trying to develop the horse to get ready for some of these nice races. This will be a good test for him. I’m optimistic he’ll give a good account of himself.”
The Lumber Guy enters the field from post eight, this lightly races horse won the Miracle Wood Stakes after breaking his maiden back on January 28th at Aqueduct. Trained by Michael Hushion and owned by Barry Schwartz, The Lumber Guy will try to lay the lumber on his several other opponents.
Teeth of the Dog get the start from post four for Trainer Michael Matz. He might have opened at 15/1 morning line odds but if anyone can give this horse its best chance to win in this field it would be Mike Matz and jockey Joe Bravo.
Rounding out the field is Tiger Walk for Sagamore Farm and trainer Ignacio Correas with jockey Eddie Castro from post number sever. Tiger Walk started his career on the turf and hopes to make big strides at Aqueduct.