2022 Wood Memorial Contenders at Aqueduct

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NYRA Press Release
Updated: April 06, 2022

Road to the Derby: Grade 2 Wood Memorial

Morello & Early Voting To Battle in G2 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 qualifying victories. On Saturday, the two promising colts will do battle against six other sophomores in the 97th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial.

The nine-furlong test is the final local qualifier for the Grade 1, $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 presented by NYRA Bets; 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.

2022 Wood Memorial Field & Odds

Race 8 at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 9 - Post 4:45 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Mo Donegal 5-2 Joel Rosario
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
2 Golden Code 15-1 Kendrick Carmouche
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
3 Early Voting 5-2 Jose Ortiz
123 Lbs
Chad Brown
4 Long Term 20-1 Javier Castellano
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
5 Morello 8-5 Jose Lezcano
123 Lbs
Steven Asmussen
6 Skippylongstocking 15-1 Junior Alvarado
123 Lbs
Saffie Joseph, Jr.
7 A. P.'s Secret 20-1 Manuel Franco
123 Lbs
Saffie Joseph, Jr.
8 Barese 8-1 Dylan Davis
123 Lbs
Michael Maker

Unbeaten in two starts, Klaravich Stables' Early Voting was a decisive winner of the Grade 3 Withers on February 5 at the Big A 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 December 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, who rode Tacitus to victory in the 2019 Wood Memorial, 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 February 6. He earned 50 points on the Derby trail when capturing the Grade 3 Gotham 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.

Morello, currently eighth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, appears to be entering the Wood Memorial in excellent shape, having worked two bullets over the Belmont training track.

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"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."

Morello was purchased for $250,000 from Sequel Bloodstock at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale last May. Lyon praised Asmussen and his Belmont-based assistant Toby Sheets for training his horse effectively.

"People go to the 2-year-old sales hoping to get a 2-year-old for Saratoga, but you have to learn patience in this business," Lyon said. "He was a little slow to develop and we didn't rush him. Each step we've taken has been the model of how it should be done, and all credit goes to Toby and Steve."

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, whose Wood Memorial winners include Eskendereya [2010], Gemologist [2012], Verrazano [2013], Outwork [2016], Vino Rosso [2018] and Bourbonic [2021].

Donegal Racing's Mo Donegal burst onto the scene at the Big A 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, where he earned 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby, 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."

Pletcher said Mo Donegal would appreciate a strong pace.

"He's adaptable enough," Pletcher said. "He was fairly close in the Remsen when there wasn't much pace on, but I think he's really going to be at his best if he can be in a truly run race with a good, honest pace where he can settle and make a run. Hopefully, there's enough speed in here that that can happen."

Joel Rosario will seek his second Wood Memorial win, piloting Mo Donegal from post 1.

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."

A victory would make the connections the first owner, trainer and jockey to score collaborative back-to-back Wood Memorial victories since Belair Stud, Sunny Fitzsimmons and James Stout teamed up with Fighting Fox [1938] and Johnstown [1939].

Golden Code exits post 2 under Carmouche.

Repole Stable's homebred Long Term, second in each of his four lifetime starts, rounds out the Pletcher trio. The son of Curlin, who sired two of the last four Wood Memorial winners, was beaten a half-length going a one-turn mile on March 5 last out garnering a career-best 86 Beyer. Long Term, who was made the post time favorite in his last three starts, was beaten 3 1/2 lengths three back at the Wood Memorial track and distance on January 2.

Long Term will race with blinkers off for the Wood Memorial.

"We're hoping he can find a good stalking trip. He's run competitive each time and the figures stack up decently with some of the others in the field if he can make a move forward," Pletcher said. "We're hoping he'll settle a little better without the blinkers and come with a better finish. We feel like with a little more experience under his belt now and getting back around two turns that he'll hopefully deliver his best performance."

Long Term, who breaks from post 4, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who will seek his third Wood Memorial triumph.

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher's New York-bred Barese will make his graded stakes debut for trainer Mike Maker. Unbeaten in three starts, all against his New York-bred counterparts, the Laoban colt was triumphant off a nearly eight-month layoff when capturing the 6 1/2-furlong Rego Park on January 9 at the Big A. He handled a stretch-out to a one-turn mile when taking Aqueduct's state-bred Gander one month later.

Dylan Davis, the winter meet leading rider at Aqueduct, will return aboard Barese from post 8.

Fresh off a victory with White Abarrio in last Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby, trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. will attempt to add more Kentucky Derby contenders to his roster in two-time winners A.P.'s Secret and Skippylongstocking.

Gentry Farms' A.P.'s Secret will attempt to rebound following a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 5 at Gulfstream Park. The son of Cupid will make his first venture outside of Gulfstream Park, where he graduated at first asking in November and defeated winners two months later.

A.P.'s Secret will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 7.

Daniel Alonso's Skippylongstocking passed the nine-furlong test last out on March 2 at Gulfstream Park, making up nearly 10 lengths to win by 3 3/4 lengths. The son of Exaggerator and half-brother to graded-stakes placed Moonlite Strike displayed frontrunning tactics in his third-out maiden win in late September, building on his advantage throughout to win by 10 1/2 lengths.

Junior Alvarado will ride Skippylongstocking from post 6.

First run in 1925, the prestigious prep race for the Kentucky Derby has had 11 winners go on to capture the `Run for the Roses'. The event honors the late Eugene D. Wood, a New York state politician who was responsible for the establishment of the now defunct Jamaica Racetrack, where the Wood Memorial was originally run. Since its inception, the Wood has been captured by over 20 eventual American classic winners, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox [1930], Count Fleet [1943], Assault [1946] and Seattle Slew [1977].

The Wood Memorial is slated as Race 8 on Saturday's 11-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

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Pre-Draw News

Undefeated Barese Preps for G2 Wood Memorial

MARCH 20 - The Undefeated Barese returned to the work tab on Saturday for trainer Mike Maker. The 3-year-old colt breezed six furlongs in 1:16.42 over the dirt training track at Belmont Park in preparation for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Presented by Resorts World Casino, a 100-40-20-10 qualifier for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

The son of Laoban has put together a perfect resume, undefeated through three starts with two stakes wins this year at Aqueduct. Barese posted a debut win sprinting five furlongs at Belmont Park in May, defeating next-out winner Bali's Shea and eventual Grade 3 With Anticipation winner Coinage.

"He has really been a nice horse. We're pointing for the Wood and are excited for the opportunity," Staudacher said.

The bay colt was away from the races for eight months and made his return in Aqueduct's 6 1/2-furlong Rego Park to square off against winners for the first time. Ridden by regular rider Dylan Davis, Barese stalked the pace and rallied down the lane to pick up the first of two consecutive stakes wins.

Barese had no issue stretching out to a one-turn mile in his next outing, capturing the restricted Gander by 1 1/4 lengths to earn a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure and convince his connections to journey down the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Staudacher said Barese should relish going two turns in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial.

"The long work was to keep him fit for the Wood. We think with the way he finished his last race, he should be able to get the nine furlongs," Staudacher said. "I don't think he should have a problem facing open company either. He ran a big figure last time."

Staudacher, who co-owned graded stakes-winners Aquaphobia, Ajourneytofreedom and Special Reserve, said he is grateful for the opportunity to start a horse in the Wood Memorial.

"It's phenomenal," said Staudacher. "It's a dream come true."

Out of the Successful Appeal mare Right Prevails, Barese was a $150,000 2-year-old purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale and is a full brother to stakes-placed filly Breakfastatbonnies.

Early Voting works towards G2 Wood Memorial

MARCH 18 - Early Voting (Klaravich Stables) worked in company Friday in preparation for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack . The Grade 3 Withers winner went a half-mile in 48.47 seconds over the Belmont Park training track with stablemate and last year's Withers winner Risk Taking.

The nine-furlong Wood Memorial is the last local Kentucky Derby qualifier, offering 100-40-20-10 points to the top-four finishers. Early Voting is currently 23rd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 10 points earned from his Withers score.

"The horse is coming along really well," said trainer Chad Brown. "He's been doing well since the Withers and he's been doing everything the right way. He's still on track for the Wood."

Greyhound Betting

Unbeaten in two starts, Early Voting captured his debut going a one-turn mile on December 18 at Aqueduct before capturing the Withers by 4 1/2 lengths over Un Ojo, the next-out winner of the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park.

Grantham, the fourth-place finisher in the Withers, came back to run second in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12.

"It was great for him to finish ahead of those horses in only his second start. As a trainer, it gives you a lot of confidence coming out of a key race," Brown said.

A son of last year's leading freshman sire Gun Runner, Early Voting was bought for $200,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He is out of the unraced Tiznow mare Amour d'Ete - a half-sister to 2004 Champion Sprinter and influential stallion Speightstown.

The four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner said fellow Klaravich Stables color bearer Reinvestment Risk is possible for the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap on April 9 at the Big A. The 4-year-old son of Upstart registered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure for a last-out winning effort in an allowance optional claimer in February at Gulfstream Park.

Reinvestment Risk was twice Grade 1-placed as a juvenile behind Jackie's Warrior in the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course and the Champagne at Belmont before finishing tenth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. He made one start last year, finishing a distant third to eventual stakes-winners Following Sea and Wudda U Think Now in a June allowance event at Belmont.

Reinvestment Risk was purchased for $280,000 from the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, where he was consigned by De Meric Sales. He is out of the Candy Ride mare Ridingwiththedevil.

Jeff Drown's Zandon remains on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Blue Grass on April 9 at Keeneland, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The Upstart sophomore made his 2022 debut in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 19 at Fair Grounds Race Course, where he missed the break but rallied from tenth to finish third.

"He missed the break, but I was happy to see him persevere. He got a lot out of the race fitness wise," Brown said.

A debut winner in October at Belmont, Zandon was narrowly beaten in the Grade 2 Remsen in December at Aqueduct. Both stakes placings have earned Zandon a collective 14 points on the Derby trail, where he is 14th on the leaderboard.

Brown sent out Highly Motivated to finish a hard fought second in last year's Blue Grass behind eventual Champion 3-Year-Old Essential Quality. Unraced since finishing tenth in last year's Kentucky Derby, Highly Motivated has worked consistently for Brown at Payson Park Training Center in Florida. Brown said the son of Into Mischief should be ready to return to action in April.

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