© 2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” kicks off the second big weekend of horse racing Saturday with the winners of the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park each receiving 100 points and a guaranteed spot in the Derby starting gate. The NBC Sports Network will broadcast live coverage of both races beginning at 5:30 p.m., ET. Let’s take a look at the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes.
On paper, it looks like the 90th running of the Wood could be a chalky race with Social Inclusion, the morning-line 2-1 favorite, heading a trio of front-runners that include Samraat (7-2) and Uncle Sigh (5-1).
A lot of hype has been buzzing about Social Inclusion who, in his last race, won an 8½-furlong open-allowance race at Gulfstream Park in a track record time of 1:40.97. The Wood Memorial will be the first stakes test for Social Inclusion who’s undefeated in two starts with a combined win margin of 17½-lengths.
Social Inclusion has been working out good at Gulfstream Park for trainer Manuel Azpurua and a recent bullet work out on March 26 could have him ready to run a good race.
I look for Social Inclusion to be competitive.
Samraat (7-2) is undefeated in four starts and he’ll put his perfect record on the line Saturday for trainer Richard Violette. Samraat has raced mostly in stakes races and he comes into the Wood with wins in the Damon Runyon Stakes, Withers Stakes (G3) and Gotham Stakes (G3).
Samraat is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and he’s bred on a nick with the Nasrullah Ancestral. His nick is very similar to that of Creative Cause who was a multiple graded-stakes winner that finished fifth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Noble Causeway, the sire of Samraat, was a multiple graded stakes-placed racehorse who finished second in the 9-furlong Florida Derby (G1).
Giant’s Causeway, the grandsire of Samraat, was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old (all at 7-furlongs) – winning the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes. As a 3-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was 6-4-0 in 10 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs, and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.
Indian Charlie, the damsire of Samraat, was a competive stakes winner who was undefeated in four starts, including a 2¼-length win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), en route to a third-place finish in the 1998 Kentucky Derby (G1).
In Excess, the second damsire of Samraat, was a good router and multiple graded-stakes winner who compiled an 11-2-3 record in 25 starts with $1,736,733 in career earnings. In 1991, In Excess set a new track record of 1:58.33 in the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap (G1), earning a 120 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance.
I look for Samraat to be competitive.
Uncle Sigh should be competitive, too. He never finished worse than second in four starts and in his last two races he was a narrow runner up to Samraat in the Withers Stakes (G3) and Gotham Stakes (G3).
A long shot I like in this race is Noble Moon (12-1) who comes into this race with a 2-0-1 record in three starts including a third-place finish in the Nashua Stakes (G2) and a win in the Jerome Stakes (G2).
Whether Noble Moon is good enough to win this race remains to be seen. But he has the breeding to handle the stretch out to 9-furlongs and if he makes another move forward off of his win in the Jerome, he could be very competitive in this race.
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Vicar’s In Trouble, 120, Mike Maker, $760,000
2. Toast of New York, 100, Jamie Osborne, $1,200,000
3. Constitution, 100, Todd Pletcher, $600,000
4. Intense Holiday, 93, Todd Pletcher, $527,500
5. Wildcat Red, 90, Jose Garrofalo, $665,000
6. We Miss Artie, 60, Todd Pletcher, $544,000
7. Samraat, 60, Rick Violette, Jr., $450,000
8. Hoppertunity, 55, Bob Baffert, $376,000
9. Chitu, 54, Bob Baffert, $440,000
10. Midnight Hawk, 52, Bob Baffert, $320,000
11. Ring Weekend, 50, Graham Motion, $210,000
12. California Chrome, 50, Art Sherman, $182,250
13. General A Rod, 40, Mike Maker, $240,000
14. Tapiture, 42, Steve Asmussen, $420,738
15. Albano, 34, Larry Jones, $190,000
16. Cairo Prince, 24, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $520,000
17. Uncle Sigh, 24, Gary Contessa, $150,000
18. Vinceremos, 20, Todd Pletcher, $190,000
19. Harry’s Holiday, 20, Mike Maker, $150,596
20. Commanding Curve, 20, Dallas Stewart, $104,000