2014 Wood Memorial Picks with Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/1/2014
The Wood Memorial Stakes just oozes history. Four of the 11 horses that have won the Triple Crown came out of the Wood as their key prep, with Seattle Slew being the most recent. Lately, though, it has struggled to produce Derby winners, and winners have had more than their share of bad luck.
Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 was the last to pull of the Wood Memorial/Kentucky Derby double. Since then both I Want Revenge and Eskendereya came out of the Wood as strong Derby favorites after dominating performances, but neither horse made the starting gate. Eskendereya was scratched in the days leading up to the big race, and I Want Revenge was a race morning scratch. A strong group of three year olds in a class that has yet to have a superstar emerge will be looking to return the Wood to past glory.
The race takes place on April 5 at Aqueduct, and it will be the final prep race for every horse coming out of this race and heading to the Derby. The primary storyline is the third chapter of what has become an epic duel between two very nice horses. Joining the fray is a wildly-intriguing-but-very-unproven youngster who could emerge as a star if he can duplicate his last race. The following are some 2014 Wood Memorial picks and predictions (futures odds to win the race are from Sportsbook.ag)
Samraat (+300) and Uncle Sigh (+500) are two New York-bred horses that have some history. They have raced twice this spring, and both times Samraat has narrowly come out on top in hard-fought races — he won the Withers by a length and the Gotham by a quarter length. Samraat will be looking to continue the trend, while Uncle Sigh wants to turn things around.
Samraat has raced five times, and he has not lost yet. Despite the unbeaten record, though, he isn’t getting quite as much respect nationally as a few of the other unbeaten runners. A big win here would go a long way towards changing that. Win or lose, though, the biggest concern with this horse is that he seems to need the lead to be at his best, and it’s hard to get really excited about a horse like that in the chaos of the Kentucky Derby. That style is less of a concern here, though, so we’ll worry about that later. Also of concern is that In Trouble, the horse that only narrowly wound up third in the Gotham, was a non-threatening fourth in the Louisiana Derby last weekend. That calls into question just how good these top two are. Jose Ortiz will be riding for trainer Rick Violette.
Uncle Sigh has only one win in his four starts, but has been second the other three times, so he always seems to put forward a strong effort. Corey Nakatani rode him last time in the Gotham, and it seemed to be a good fit for trainer Gary Contessa. What I would really like to see from this horse is a different race plan. Samraat needs to run for the lead early, and Uncle Sigh has gone with him. His breeding indicates that he should be able to rate, though, and close strong. If the Derby field winds up as speed-heavy as it looks like it could then this horse could really find his niche by developing his skills off the pace. This would be a very good race to give it a try. Of course, regardless of how he runs what is important is that he shows he can get the best of his rival.
While those two horses will be the big storyline, it could be Social Inclusion (+250) that steals the headlines in the end. This colt, who is trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, has run only twice — both wins. It was the second of those outings that really has captured imaginations, though. He appeared in an allowance race at Gulfstream on March 12 against Honor Code, the highly-regarded winner of the Remsen Stakes as a two-year-old who was returning from a layoff. Starting from the inside post, Social Inclusion took the early lead in the 1 1/16-mile race and never looked back. When the dust cleared he had won by a stunning 10-length margin, and he had set a track record in the process. It was incredible day, but now we need to see if this horse really is a freak or if everything just fell into place for him on that day.
If he can come close to replicating that performance again here with Luis Contreras on board again then he would draw a whole lot of betting action in the Derby — even if his lack of experience is a real concern. I like a freak as much as anyone, so I’ll be hoping for the best. At the very least, with this horse and Samraat in the field we should be able to enjoy a blistering early pace.
Doc’s Sports expert horse racing handicapper Raphael Esparza is handicapping the Wood Memorial, and you can get his picks for free! Doc’s is offering $60 worth of member’s picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers, and this credit can be used towards Raphael Esparza’s Wood Memorial picks. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today .
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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