Outwork Outworks Wood Rivals

Outwork and Matt King Coal battle in the Wood.

Outwork (second from the front) battled with Matt King Coal before disposing of that rival and holding off Trojan Nation to win the Grade I Wood Memorial.

Repole Stable’s homebred Outwork made his Big Apple stakes debut a winning on Saturday, capturing the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) at Aqueduct by a head over the late-charging California shipper Trojan Nation. In the process, the handsome bay earned 100 Kentucky Derby (GI) points, bringing his personal total to 120 and assuring himself a first-class ticket into the starting gate for the most famous race in the world in just four weeks.

With his Wood victory, Outwork avenged the loss his sire, Uncle Mo, suffered in the 2011 renewal of Aqueduct’s final Derby prep and finally gave his owner a victory in one of the races the New York-based owner has said he’d like to win most.

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s go-to jockey John Velazquez, who could have ridden any of the conditioner’s many runners across the nation, chose to accept the mount on Outwork for the Wood likely knowing the colt was sitting on a big race after his runner-up finish to stablemate Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) last month.

The choice proved a smart one.

Outwork, who bobbled ever so slightly at the break, was soon after rushed toward the front from his outermost post position and, as he made his way around the first turn, dueled for the early lead while three-wide. After settling just behind the pace of :22.91, :46.93 and 1:12.31 set by Matt King Coal, the winner put his head in front just past the three-eighths pole and maintained a narrow advantage over his pacesetting rival past the quarter pole and, under a furious ride from Velazquez, held off the late charge from 80-1 chance Trojan Nation, who rallied mightily along the rail and briefly brushed up against the winner in tight quarters a few jumps before the wire.

“He was going a little too fast in the first turn and I had to get him a little easy in the first turn,” Velazquez said. “Everyone was pushing outside and I had to let him. At the quarter pole he put his ears up, idled a lot. He is still a young horse who is still learning. He has mastered a lot and he showed a lot of heart.”

After posting the mile split in 1:38.90, the winner logged a final time for the nine furlongs over a muddy and sealed main track of 1:52.92, the slowest running of the race in its 92-year history.

Adventist, Matt King Coal, the 9-5 favorite Shagaf, Tale of S’Avall, Flexibility and Dalmore rounded out the final order of finish.

Outwork holds Trojan Nation safe at the wire.

Outwork holds Trojan Nation safe at the wire.

At odds of 2-1, Outwork paid $6.80, $4.80 and $3.90. Trojan Nation returned a whopping $40.60  and $13.40, capping off a $319.50 exacta, while 10-1 chance Adventist was good for $4.90. The trifecta paid $1,955.

With the Wood win and the $590,000 winner’s share of the pot, Outwork bumped his career line to 4-3-1-0, $701,800. He is also another promising son of hot young sire Uncle Mo headed to the Derby.

“Forget the Derby, forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win for him in only his fourth lifetime start,” Pletcher said. “To win a Grade 1 in only his fourth start is extra gratifying for our team, because five years ago Uncle Mo didn’t win the Wood Memorial. It’s sort of vindication in some ways for him, and to win it with a son of Uncle Mo is a pretty cool story.”

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.