The Wood Memorial
Held every April at New York’s Aqueduct Race Track, the Wood Memorial is considered one of the most important prep races for the Kentucky Derby. First run in 1925 at a distance of 1 mile, since 1958 the distance has been set at 1 1/8 miles. The Wood is rated as a Grade I race, and currently carries a total purse of $1 million. Since it’s inauguration, 11 winners of the Wood have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, with four of those sweeping the Triple Crown of US racing.
Among the more recent winners of the Wood Memorial – Kentucky Derby double are Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1977), Pleasant Colony (1981), Easy Goer (1989) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000). The 2013 Wood Memorial winner, Verrazano, finished 14th in the Derby, while the second place finisher, Normandy Invasion, was fourth, and the third-place finisher, Vyjack, was 18th.
In addition to Wood Memorial winners who went on to claim the Derby, several others who finished in the top three have won the Run for the Roses, further establishing the fact that a solid race in the Wood is a good indication of a horse being ready to run its’ best on the first Saturday in May. Among these are Secretariat (3rd, 1973), Genuine Risk (3rd, 1980), Monarchos (2nd, 2001), and Funny Cide (2nd, 2003). Genuine Risk became only the second filly to win the Kentucky Derby, after Regret in 1915. She just missed becoming the only filly to ever win the Triple Crown, finishing second in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Since 2005, the race record time has been held by Bellamy Road, who ran the Wood in 1:47.16, winning by more than 17 lengths, another race record. Bellamy Road wouldl go on to finish seventh in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Two horses in the history of the Wood have won the race, but been disqualified to second, including Golf Ace (1956) and Sunrise Country (1962), who finished in a dead heat with Admiral’s Voyage, the only time two horses have been tied at the finish of the race.
Between 1944 and 1958, legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro won the race nine times, including back-to-back victories in 1949 – ’50, and three times in a row from 1956 – ’58. In the early years of the Wood, trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons won the Wood seven times, including four in a row from 1936 – ’39. The very first Wood Memorial winning jockey, Ivan H. Parke, came back to win three times as a trainer, in 1945, 1948 and 1958.
Wood Memorial Betting Odds
Sandwiched between a pair of favorites at the finish line, Tencendur ran the race of his career at odds of 22-1 in the 2015 Wood, paying his backers a tidy $15.40 in Place money, and triggering a $85 exacta payout with 2-1 Frosted and a $230 trifecta with 6/5 El Kabier. Even when the favorites prevail, all it takes is one nice longshot to hit in the exotics to produce a huge boost in the payout, and more cash back bonuses from online racebooks like Bovada.
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2017 Wood Memorial Contenders
Taking advantage of a poor break by favored Shagaf (2-1), who came into the 2016 Wood off a victory in the G1 Gotham, Outwork (5-2) went to the front of the field and duelled throughout the first part of the race with a game Matt King Coal through quick opening fractions of 24:02 and 46:93 on a wet and sealed Aqueduct track. With that set up, it was looking like the race was ripe for an upset and 81-1 Trojan Nation tried his best to make that happen, coming up the rail to engage Outwork through deep stretch, But some savvy riding by Hall Of Famer John Valezquez kept that rival pinned to the barrier, and in the end Outwork was able to hold on by a slim head, with 11-1 Adventist overcoming a wide trip throughout to rally late and get up for third.
2016 Order of Finish: Win Place Show
1st: Outwork 6.80 4.80 3.90
2nd: Trojan Nation 40.60 13.10
3rd: Adventist 4.90
(Also Ran: Matt King Coal, Shagaf, Tale Of S’avall, Flexability, Dalmore)
Check back closer to race day for the 2017 Wood Memorial contenders!