Friday, April 6, 2012

Wood Memorial Stakes Racing Roundup

Undefeated Gemologist, with four wins to his credit, will go to the starting gate Saturday for trainer Todd Pletcher as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 88th running of the $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

With $103,855 in graded stakes earnings, Gemologist will probably need to finish at least second in order to have enough earnings to make it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

While the quality of the field that Gemologist defeated in his last race is suspect, he did finish in hand, covering the mile in a sharp 1:35.95. Since that race, Gemologist fired a bullet work out on April 1 and another move forward will make him competitive in the Wood Memorial.

If Gemologist repeats the form of his of his 3-year-old debut last month at Gulfstream Park where he led from gate-to-wire and cruised to a 7-length victory, he has a good chance to stamp his ticket to Louisville.

Alpha (5-2) has been on my watch list since last summer and he has the breeding to be competitive in classic competition. His Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile, an index I use to measure classic potential, is a very good 97.5 – a score of 100 or more is excellent.

Alpha’s sire, Bernardini, was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs as a 3-year-old. Notable races Bernardini won en route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½-furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs).

A. P. Indy , the gradsire of Alpha, and great grandsire Seattle Slew, were Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. Nijinsky, the damsire of Alpha, and maternal grandsire Northern Dancer were also Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. Alydar, the sire of the second dam, would have been a Classic Champion Thoroughbred if it had not been for Affirmed.

Munnaya, the dam of Alpha, raced in England and won the 11-furlong Lingfield Oaks Trail Stakes and finished third in the 10-furlong Pretty Polly Stakes. The remaining four dams on the tail-female line – Hiaam, Kamar, Square Angel and Nangela – were all stakes winners. Kamar was the 1979 Canadian Champion 3-year-old filly and Square Angel was the 1973 Champion.

Alpha has shown some behavioral issues when loading in the gate so I’ll be watching to see if he has overcome that problem. While it remains to be seen if Alpha will live up to his breeding, if he behaves in the paddock and starting gate, I look for him to run a good race.

A long shot I like is Casual Trick (20-1) who also was sired by Bernardini.

Casual Trick flipped his pallet in his last two races but has since had surgery to correct the problem. He has the breeding to be a factor, but, he’ll also need to improve his game if he’s going to make it to the winners circle.

Casual Look, the dam of Casual Trick, was an English classic winner of the Epsom Oaks and Red Ransom, the damsire of Casual Trick, was considered by many to be a strong contender for the 1990 Triple Crown before he was retired due to an injury.

Manila, the sire of the second dam, was the 1986 Eclipse Champion Turf Male with over $2.6 million in career earnings and the 2008 inductee into the National Museum of Racing of Hall of Fame.

General Assembly, the sire of the third dam, was a multiple graded stakes winner that finished second in the 1979 Kentucky Derby and set a new track record of 2:00.0 in the 10-furlong Travers Stakes (G1).

Prior to problems with his pallet, Casual Trick finished second in the Gulstream Park Derby to Reveron who recently finished second to Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (G1).

Trainer Nick Zito knows how to get young colts ready for big races and if Casual Trick can return to the form of his Gulfstream Park Derby performance, he can be competitive in the Wood Memorial.

Street Life has quickly become a “buzz” horse with two back-to-back wins at Aqueduct including a half-length win in the Broad Brush Stakes on March 17.

Street Life has good breeding with Street Sense as his sire and Grindstone as his damsire. However, he’s taking a big step up in class and only first place honors will give him the graded earnings he needs to start in the Kentucky Derby.

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