Aqueduct's Wood Memorial Contenders and Odds Announced for Saturday 4/9/22
|Post Position||Horse and Morning Line Odds|
|1||Mo Donegal (5-2)|
|2||Golden Code (15-1)|
|3||Early Voting (5-2)|
|4||Long Term (20-1)|
|7||A.P.'s Secret (20-1)|
Unbeaten Early Voting, Morello set to clash in Wood Memorial
Graded stakes winners Early Voting and Morello are both undefeated 3-year-olds who have never raced outside of Aqueduct Racetrack while boasting impressive local Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying victories. On April 9, the two promising colts will do battle against six other sophomores in the 97th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes.
The nine-furlong test is the final local qualifier for the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs, awarding a respective 100-40-20-10 points to the top-four finishers.
The Wood Memorial is one of six stakes on Saturday’s card which also features the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap; the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points; the Grade 3, $200,00 Bay Shore; the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap; and the $100,000 Danger’s Hour.
Unbeaten in two starts, Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting was a decisive winner of the Grade 3 Withers on Feb. 5 at Aqueduct last out, earning 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
The son of 2021 leading freshman sire Gun Runner was in command throughout the nine-furlong Withers and was never in doubt in the stretch run, winning by 4 1/2 lengths for trainer Chad Brown. The victory, which followed a debut triumph going a one-turn mile on Dec. 18, registered an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He went first time around two turns and he passed the test well,” Brown said of the Withers effort. “He definitely gained experience and he appears to be training well. He prefers to be forwardly placed, so hopefully he’ll be there again.”
Jose Ortiz will ride Early Voting from post 3.
Morello, who has won his three starts by a combined 13 3/4 lengths, will see two turns for the first time for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Following a six-furlong debut victory in November, Morello parlayed his runaway winning style into stakes company for the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on Feb. 6. He earned 50 points on the Derby trail when capturing the Gotham (G3) one month later. Morello, who boasts field-best earnings of $264,000, earned a 96 Beyer for his one-turn mile Gotham victory – the highest last out figure in the field.
“We’re excited. The horse is doing well, he’s super sharp and we think we have what it takes to get the job done,” said Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, who owns Morello in partnership with Craig Taylor and Diamond T Racing. “Distance isn’t a question mark for me. I think with the way he runs and his patience and class, it shows that he can do it.”
Jose Lezcano, aboard in all three starts, will seek his first Wood Memorial victory as he pilots Morello once more from post 5.
Todd Pletcher has saddled six of the last 11 Wood Memorial victors and returns to this year’s race with Mo Donegal, Golden Code, and Long Term. A victory would put Pletcher on even terms with the late fellow Hall of Fame trainer "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, the all-time leading trainer in the Wood with seven wins.
“It's a race we’ve been fortunate to have some success in and it would be really cool to equal a record of someone as legendary as he is,” said Pletcher.
Donegal Racing’s Mo Donegal burst onto the scene in December when narrowly defeating Zandon in the Grade 2 Remsen. The triumphant stakes debut came six weeks following a second-out graduation at Belmont Park.
Two months following the Remsen, Mo Donegal made his 2022 debut in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. Breaking a step slow from the gate, Mo Donegal tracked in fifth down the backstretch before launching a late rally to finish third.
“The Wood fits well in the calendar for us and we've been pointing Mo Donegal there for a while seeing as he won the Remsen there. It makes sense to bring him back on a surface we knew he likes,” Pletcher said.
Initially entered in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, Mo Donegal was scratched when developing a temperature the week of the race. But Mo Donegal has put that behind him according to Pletcher.
“I guess it was a blessing to get it out of the way then as opposed to now,” Pletcher said. “He's trained well since then. In particular, I thought his final breeze for this was very good."
Golden Code will seek to give Pletcher, Calumet Farm and Kendrick Carmouche a second straight Wood victory, after combining for a 72-1 upset victory in last year’s edition with Bourbonic.
The son of Honor Code, bred in New York by Barry R. Ostrager, was last seen finishing third in the Gotham one month after a 10 3/4-length maiden win at second asking at the Big A.
"He ran into some nice horses, but I liked the way he continued to finish with some interest,” Pletcher said. “It seems like he would appreciate the stretch out around two turns. Like everyone at this time of year, you need to keep improving. He needs to do that, but Calumet has had some luck in this race and last year won with a big upset. They're keen to give it another try and the colt is doing well, so we're hoping he can continue to move forward.”
The Wood Memorial is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. ET