As part of the final wave of qualifying races for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes carries qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale, awarded to the top four finishers.
This race has a field of 11, of which only TACITUS and HAIKAL have already secured enough points to start in the KD on the first Saturday in May. Here is a full-field analysis along with the Morning Line
TAX [ML 9-2] Trainer: Danny Gargan. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. In his last start he stumbled out of the gate before rallying to Win the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at this track. TAX prefers to stay close to the early pace and should stick with that strategy on Saturday. If he remains any where near 9-2 come Post Time it will be a pleasant surprise.
TACITUS [ML 5-2] Trainer: Bill Mott. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. He broke his Maiden here, going a mile back in November as an odds-on favorite. Word was out that TACITUS was a talented runner. He took almost four-months between starts, then Won the Grade 2, Tampa Bay Derby. He Added Lasix on that day, and rallied boldly up the inside to Win and secure 50 KD qualifying points.
HOFFA’S UNION [ML 6-1] Trainer: Mark Casse. Jockey: Dylan Davis. He Won his first and only start in in impressive fashion at Laurel Park. In that race he took the early lead and never looked back, Winning by 15.5 lengths. This trainer is never afraid to take a shot with his horses, and you have to wonder just how good this one could be.
HAIKAL [ML 7-2] Trainer: Kiaran McLauglin. Jockey: Rajiv Maragh. This guy lost his debut by a neck, and hasn’t lost since. He has a deep closing style that has been very successful in all four starts here at Aqueduct. McLaughlin has moved HAIKAL steadily up in distance and in class, and each time he responded with a creditable effort. He now adds another furlong in distance, and goes two turns for the first time. He clearly loves the Big A, which has been a fair track throughout the winter meet.
FINAL JEOPARDY [ML 8-1] Trainer: Jason Servis. Jockey: Manny Franco. This son of KD Winner STREET SENSE comes from the same connections as the surprise Florida Derby (G1) Winner MAXIMUM SECURITY. Last out he Won a one-turn mile Allowance Race at Gulfstream Park. His running lines indicate a stalking style, which fits well on this Aqueduct track. It’s not unusual for Servis trainees to make successful leaps in competition level.
OVERDELIVER [ML 20-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche. This lightly raced runner sold for $100,000 as a yearling. He will likely provide speed to this field. OVERDELIVER pushed the pace in his debut Victory at Gulfstream in December. He then bobbled at the break in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but still managed to be second behind a track record performance by WIN WIN WIN.
NOT THAT BRADY [ML 20-1] Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. You can toss his Gotham Stakes (G3) race, in which he was basically eased after looking difficult to handle before the race. This New York-bred lost the mile and an eighth Withers by a head to TAX after setting the early pace. In all of his races except for the Gotham (G3), he flew out of the gate to race on the lead. If all goes well, he will once again ensure a fast early pace.
GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS [ML 30-1] Trainer: Jason Servis. Jockey: Jose Lezcano. This gelding is another from the red-hot, high-percentage Servis barn. While FINAL JEOPARDY ships in from Florida, this late Triple Crown nominee is based in New York. It took him four tries to break his Maiden, which he did at Aqueduct, in a one-turn mile in February.
MATH WIZARD [ML 30-1] Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Eric Cancel. This Gulfstream Park-based runner was claimed three races in a row, twice for $16,000, and the third time for $25,000 by his current connections. His last start came on March 15th at Gulfstream, where he rallied for second in a Starter Allowance going a mile. To enter here seems a bit ambitious.
OUTSHINE [ML 6-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: John Velazquez. He Won his debut as a 2-year old last May at Belmont Park, and followed that with a disappointing 5th place finish in the Tremont Stakes. He returned after an eight-month layoff with an Allowance Victory at Gulfstream Park in February. OUTSHINE finished second to TACITUS in the Tampa Bay Derby. Likely to see a stalking trip from him in his Aqueduct debut.
JOEVIA [ML 30-1] Trainer: Greg Sacco. Jockey: Nik Juarez. This colt broke his Maiden last summer at Monmouth Park and then did not race again until February, when he was beaten by just a neck in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes by HAIKAL. Then in March he ran second in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park while going two turns and staying just behind the early pace. This is a horse who is improving.
Summary: The three major players in the Wood are TAX, TACITUS, and HAIKAL all of which Won their last races on the Derby Trail with advantageous pace setups.
It seems that there will be a legitimate early pace with the speedy NOT THAT BRADY and HOFFA’S UNION in the field. So once again, TACITUS and HAIKAL will be making a late run down the long Aqueduct stretch.
While the Daily Racing Blog believes that any one of the three aforementioned major players could Win, we fear that the betting public will be of the same mind, and drive down the odds on two of the three. So there will probably be no Value in putting TAX or TACITUS on top of any Exotic Wagers.
DRB will certainly use #1 TAX, and #2 TACITUS in Multiple-Race Wagers- the Pick 3, and Pick 4, but we’ll look for better Value in the race itself. So what horse do we like to Win? To answer in the form of a question; who is FINAL JEOPARDY. We think his Class, and Power Rating will serve him well in this group. We also like #4 HAIKAL if his Odds stay in the 7-2 range.
So the play will be: A Trifecta Key using both the #4, and #5 on top with the #1-2-3-10 underneath. In other words; #4 with 1-2-3-5-10 and #5 with 1-2-3-4-10. Also an Exacta Box using 4-5-10. With Win Bets on the 3,5, and 10.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.