Social Inclusion, installed as the 2/1 morning line favorite, steps up to stakes company to face Samraat, Uncle Sigh, and eight other three-year-old colts in Saturday' Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racecourse in New York (post time 5:40 p.m.; TV: NBCSN). After a pair of blow out wins versus non-stakes company (7 1/2 lengths in against maidens, and 10 lengths against allowance rivals, including Honor Code), it's time to see what Social Inclusion can do against the top two Kentucky Derby contenders in the state of New York: Samraat and Uncle Sigh.
The New York-bred Samraat, a winner in all five lifetime starts, defeated rival Uncle Sigh in both the G3-Withers and the G3-Gotham. Both of those races unfolded in a very similar manner with Samraat stalking/dueling with Uncle Sigh and, ultimately, winning by no more than a length at the wire. Samraat drew outside of Uncle Sigh in both of those races but will have to contend with both Uncle Sigh and Social Inclusion running to the outside of him in the Wood.
Joining the three-headed monster in the Wood are:
- Kid Cruz: Winner of a minor stakes race at Laurel at the Wood distance of nine furlongs.
- Wicked Strong: Ninth, 15 lengths behind Cairo Prince in the G2-Holy Bull, and a half-length behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the G2-Remsen. He finished fourth in an OC/N1X event at Gulfstream in late February in a field that included Florida Derby winner Constitution and Mexikoma.
- Noble Moon: Winner of the G2-Jerome at Aqueduct back on January 4th.
- Harpoon: Fifth in the Gotham, second by a nose in the Sam F. Davis; this Tapit colt has shown some ability but hasn't busted out with a big effort at this point.
- Los Borrachos: Broke his maiden in his fourth try at the Big A back on March 8th.
- Kristo: A well-beaten third in the G2-San Felipe behind California Chrome and Midnight Hawk; might be a small barometer as to how the West Coast colts compare to their rivals out East. He also finished second in the Sham to Midnight Hawk on January 11th.
- Schivarellli: Two-for-two with a runaway win at Aqueduct versus OC/N1X company on February 21st.
- Effinex: Three races against state-bred company in his career; he's taking a big step up in class in this race.
On paper, the pace scenario for the Wood looks to be at a minimum, honest, and at a maximum, quite contentious. Samraat, Uncle Sigh and Social Inclusion have all displayed a preference to be on or right near the early lead. Additionally, the shipper from Southern California, Kristo, has run his best races when contesting the early fractions, while Noble Moon won the Jerome in gate-to-wire fashion and Schivarelli beat allowance company from the front over a sealed muddy track. And while a three or four (or five)-way battle for the lead may not guarantee a late race meltdown (especially since the top three look quite strong when compared to their Wood rivals), off-the-pace runners like Kid Cruz, Harpoon, and even Wicked Strong, might get the perfect setup in order to run a big race.
Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for the 2014 Wood Memorial:
|I. Ortiz, Jr.