Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial features a clash of Alpha, winner of the Gotham and the Count Fleet at Aqueduct this winter/spring, and Gemologist, the undefeated son of Tiznow, who desperately needs significant graded stakes earnings to ensure a spot in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Additionally, the son of a former Kentucky Derby winner, Street Life, will look to punch his ticket to Louisville for the first Saturday in May. The Wood Memorial is scheduled to go to post at 5:15pm Eastern/2:15pm Pacific, and will be televised on NBC.
Let's take a look at the field for the Wood Memorial.
1-Alpha: What I Like:
Back-to-back BRIS speed figs of 100 merit consideration, if only because only two horses in this field (the 3 and the 8) have ever run better than that number. Trainer McLaughlin scores at 17 percent in graded stakes, 25 percent with a winner last out, and 28 percent after a freshening. Colt comes in off six works, and each of the last three has been sharp. Dominguez hits at an amazing 62 percent fo McLauglin. Tops in late pace and earnings per start. What Worries Me:
No starts on the track or at the distance, and it is kind of a mantra of mine to against short-odds horses doing something for the first time. This horse is doing two different things for the first time.
2-Casual Trick: What I Like: Nick Zito. The race is in New York. Uh, so there. What Worries Me: Zito is winning just 4 percent of his entries right now. Horse hasn't been the same since his second-place finish in the GP Derby on New Year's Day, having lost his last tow by a combined 51 lengths. Nowhere in the numbers.
3-My Adonis: What I Like: Average pace may help, as he's won and placed when his races have gone close to par at the second call. He is a contender if the half goes in :47 and 2. Trujillo has stayed strong with this one, as he is the only race rider the horse has ever known, and horse has hit the board in his last two graded stakes. Back-to-back strong works coming in. Best back speed number. What Worries Me: A best-ever BRIS speed fig of 102 netted him just second against Hansen in the Gotham. Fear a bounce. Trainer Breen is just 6 percent in graded stakes and 10 percent off the layoff.
4-Teeth Of The Dog: What I Like: Colt has won at the distance, and trainer Matz must have some serious confidence to move the him up to a G1 after a maiden-breaker. Bravo stays aboard. What Worries Me: Horse is nowhere in the numbers. Fear the bounce off his winning 94 BRIS speed fig last out. Four works are middling, and Matz is just 6 percent in graded stakes.
5-Street Life: What I Like: His dad, Street Sense, was one of my favorites, and I will always regret that he didn't come back for a four-year old campaign with his rival Curlin. Trainer Brown's numbers rock. 20 percent in graded stakes (!), 32 percent with a winner last out, and 25 percent in routes. Has one work, but it was sharp. Colt is second in late pace, and works his way into the five hole in both speed fig average and class by dollars. Alvarado stays aboard and hits 44 percent for Brown, 78 percent in-the-money. Look at the last race. The half in 50 and 3, which found him 4th 5 1/2 lengths back, and he closed against a crawling pace to win by a half. (Comment: ask 5/16, roll by late). Gets more distance, and a least a little more pace to run at here. What Worries Me: Lightly raced...with just three races, albeit two of them wins....a maiden 65k, and a 75k non-graded stakes affair. First time on the big course, and has never seen the distance.
6-Gemologist: What I Like: Hard to argue against the undefeated, especially when the last win was a crushing 7-length where he drew off handily. Horse is second in speed figure average and earnings per start. He has won against both fast and slow paces. Pletcher is 20 percent in graded stakes, 24 percent when shipping in, and 28 percent second off the layoff. Castellano stays aboard and hits at 35 percent for Pletcher. Two works, the last being a bullet. What Worries Me: Speed figs are consistent, but his best number only ranks seventh in this field. I would have to consider him a vulnerable favorite.
7-Tiger Walk: What I Like: Works pattern suggests maturation, but bullets mean less when there is such little company. Trainer Correas is solid, going 17 percent in graded stakes, 23 percent in routes, and 27 percent starting on dirt. His trip in the Gotham wasn't to-die-for and he picks up Velazquex here, which seems significant to me because the trainer isn't a household name. I have to believe this horse is live. What Worries Me: Just missed third in the Gotham, but he was still 9 back of Hansen, and six behind My Adonis, who shows up here as well. Third in speed figure average, and fifth in early and late pace.
8-The Lumber Guy: What I Like: The only "E" horse in the field, and has run good numbers in both of his starts, which he won by a combined 13 and a 1/2. And now here he is in a stakes for trainer Hushion, who wins 18 percent of his graded stakes starts, 26 percent with a winner last out, and 28 percent going first at route. Four works lead him in, with the two in the middle being sharp Well-represented in class numbers and is tops in speed figure average. What Worries Me: The old distance question. He crushed fields in both of his starts, so I am tempted not even to think about it, but the longer the distance the harder it is for frontrunners to hold on.
Top Selection: Street Life. Alternate: Tiger Walk, The Lumber Guy Fear: Alpha, My Adonis