Godolphin Racing's Grade 3 Gotham winner Enticed is set for a return appearance in New York on Saturday for his final race ahead of the Kentucky Derby and has been tabbed as the 6-5 favorite in a field of nine for the 94th running of the Grade 2, $1 million Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct Racetrack.
As part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial is the final stop in New York en route to the “Run for the Roses” on May 5 at Churchill. With 170 total qualifying points up for grabs, the Wood is worth 100 qualifying points to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
The Wood Memorial will be part of a live national broadcast on NBC Sports Network from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET, which will also include coverage of the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park. Post time for the Wood Memorial is 5:55 p.m.
With 63 qualifying points, Enticed, by Medaglia d'Oro and out of multiple Grade 1 winner It's Tricky, is already armed with enough points to make the Derby's 20-horse field, but the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee won't be taking a stroll through the park as he looks to add a third graded stakes win to his resume in a final tune-up for the “Run for the Roses” on May 5.
“He's doing very well,” said McLaughlin, who captured the Wood Memorial with Frosted in 2015. “He's training great. We're happy with him and we're there trying to win an important race. Even if it doesn't have Grade 1 status, we feel like it is a Grade 1. It's a huge race for a horse in his career, especially for a stallion prospect. Only one horse wins the Derby and 19 are hot and dirty, so this is a very important race on Saturday.”
As a 2-year-old, Enticed finished third in the Grade 1 Hopeful in his stakes debut and closed out his juvenile campaign with a head victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November at Churchill Downs.
The colt finished a well-beaten fourth in his seasonal return in the Grade 2 Holy Bull on February 3 at Gulfstream Park before returning to New York for the Gotham, where he was reunited with jockey Junior Alvarado and turned back to a one-turn mile, taking advantage of his outside post to power home a clear winner and punch his ticket to the Derby.
Alvarado retains the mount aboard Enticed. The pair will break from post 5.
“We wanted to be outside in the Gotham, but going two turns, it's no big deal,” McLaughlin said. “There's not a bad post, in my opinion, with a nine-horse field. We were hoping we'd draw 4, 5, or 6, something in the middle, but whatever it was going to be, it was going to be and we'd work it out.”
Four-time Wood Memorial-winning trainer Todd Pletcher will be represented in this year's edition by Grade 3-placed Vino Rosso for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.
Vino Rosso, a chestnut colt by Curlin, proved an easy winner in his two juvenile starts, including a 2 ¾-length debut win at Aqueduct in November. In February, the 3-year-old stepped up to the stakes level, finishing a close third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis behind Flameaway and Catholic Boy in February at Tampa Bay Downs.
He added blinkers for his most recent start in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, where he stalked the early pace before dropping back to finish an even fourth under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“He's a horse that's trained very well all winter and in company with some very good horses that have gone on to be successful,” said Pletcher. “So, we've been a little frustrated with his races this year. We thought we had seen some improvement with him training [in blinkers] and in the Tampa Bay Derby, Johnny felt like he was more focused in the earlier part of the race, so we talked about it and after discussing it with Johnny, we decided to leave them on.
“We've been looking forward to the Wood for a while,” he added. “We're excited to get him back to Aqueduct. It's where he broke his maiden and stretching out to a mile and an eighth is going to allow him to show his true ability.”
Vino Rosso, 9-2 on the morning line, will again be ridden by Velazquez from post 9.
Gary and Mary West's homebred Restoring Hope will ship from Hall of Famer Bob Baffert's training base in Southern California to make his stakes debut in the Wood Memorial.
“We've always been very high on him and he worked really well the other day so I thought we'd take a shot,” said Baffert, who won the Wood Memorial with Congaree in 2001 and with Bob and John in 2006. “He's doing really well. We're like everybody else, we're trying to see if he fits. The Wood is a very important race.”
By Giant's Causeway, Restoring Hope is exiting a 3 ¼-length maiden win on February 2 at Santa Anita Park, his third career start and first without blinkers, where he raced close to the pace and kicked clear in the final sixteenth.
“We took the blinkers off and he came back and ran well [last time out],” Baffert added. “Now, he's training like a good horse, so that's why he's there. Hopefully he ships well and handles everything well. It's new surroundings and you never know how they're going to act with everything and you still need racing luck and all, but I feel confident that he's going to be very competitive. He's very fast. He has a lot of natural speed. He's got to be up on the pace so we're going to see what happens. He's a gorgeous horse and he's built for it. He's a big, strong horse.”
Flavien Prat will ship in for the assignment. Installed as the 4-1 second choice, Restoring Hope will break from post 8.
Gotham runner-up Old Time Revival will try his hand around two turns for the first time for trainer Kenneth Decker and owner Fred Brei. The son of Brethren closed out his 2-year-old season with a 4 ¾-length maiden win and finished a troubled seventh in his seasonal bow in January and came back with a front-running trip in the Miracle Wood on February 17 at Laurel Park, where he was reeled in at the last minute by multiple stakes winner Sill Having Fun.
Old Time Revival got a similar setup in the Gotham and pressed ahead on an honest pace as a 35-1 longshot, but could not hold off Enticed, who kicked clear in the stretch and geared down under the wire.
“Everything's doing good, so we're excited to make the trip,” Decker said. “He seems to be getting better every time we go. It seems like the further we go, the better he does. So we'll see on Saturday, but right now, everything looks good.”
Jeremy Rose, who picked up the mount on Old Time Revival in the Gotham, will be back aboard. At 6-1 on the morning line, the pair will break from post 4.
Also making a bid in the Wood Memorial is Grade 1 Champagne winner Firenze Fire, whose start in this year's Wood Memorial triggers a purse increase to $1 million from $750,000 with the field's inclusion of a Grade 1 or Group 1 winner.
The Wood Memorial will be the fourth local Derby prep for the Mr. Amore Stables homebred, who recorded a half-length victory with Manny Franco aboard in the one-mile Jerome on January 13. He also finished a hard-fought second in the Grade 3 Withers at 1 1/8 miles on February 3 and checked in fourth last time out in the Gotham.
Trained by Jason Servis, the Poseidon's Warrior colt last year won the Grade 3 Sanford and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga before posting a half-length win over eventual 2-year-old champion Good Magic in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 7 at Belmont. Firenze Fire made his two-turn debut while finishing a distant seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, won by Good Magic by 4 ½ lengths.
Franco, fresh off his first riding title in the recently-concluded Aqueduct winter meet, will ride from post 2 at 6-1 on the morning line.
Rounding out the field for the Wood Memorial are R and H Stable's Evaluator, winner of the Sleepy Hollow for New York-breds last fall for trainer Michael Dilger; Thomas F. Conway's King Zachary, a 7 ¾-length maiden winner on March 18 from the Dale Romans barn; California invader and recent maiden winner Heartfullofstars for trainer Phil D'Amato and owners Agave Racing Stable and Little Red Feather Racing; and Catch Twenty Two for trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul and owner E.V. Racing Stable.
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