2015 Wood Memorial Picks with Odds and Expert Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/2/2015
The Wood Memorial Stakes, which has been run since 1925 and takes place at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York, has been a great stepping stone to Triple Crown glory over the years. Eleven different horses have won this race and gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. Four of them won the Triple Crown. Secretariat was only third in the Wood in 1973 but also went on to Triple Crown glory. Lately, though, the story has not been as inspiring. Wicked Strong and Verrazano, the last two winners of the Wood, have disappointed in the Triple Crown. Eskendereya and I Want Revenge both had a shot at Derby favoritism but were hurt leading up to the race. The last horse to win this race and a Triple Crown race was 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker. Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 was the last to pull of the Wood-Derby double.
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So, can this year's group improve the recent fate of the Wood? At this point I am not convinced. There were four horses that stand out in the field as most interesting, but all would have to take a huge step forward and make a major statement to be seen as a top-tier threat under the twin spires next month. Unfortunately, one of those three is no longer a factor. Far From Over, a well-bred-but-inexperienced Todd Pletcher-trainee who could likely have been the favorite in this race, was injured this week and is not only out of this race but off the Triple Crown trail entirely. It is a hit to the star power of this race, but it opens things up for the other three. I don't mind - I wasn't going to bet on him anyway.
Daredevil (9/5): This is the lone Pletcher potential star with the loss of Far From Over. Expectations were very high for this horse heading into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year. He had just won the Champagne Stakes impressively. He was absolutely awful in the big race, finishing 11th. He didn't run again until early March in the Swale at Gulfstream. He was heavily favored against an underwhelming field there but disappointed again when he had a wide-open lane after starting a late move but had no gas to take the lead and finished a distant second. He's bred well, he's a beautiful horse, he's training well, and we know he can perform in a huge race. Did he peak as a two year old, though? He needs to prove he is legitimate here or he will be quickly forgotten. Again, I'm skeptical.
El Kabeir (3/1): In an age where Pletcher and others coddle their three year olds to a ridiculous extent, I love to see a horse that has already run eight times - six in graded stakes. He has three wins and two seconds in the last five outings and won the Gotham on this track last time out. In fact, he has two wins and two seconds in four stakes at Aqueduct to date. Despite all the stakes experience, his most impressive race was when he broke his maiden at Saratoga, winning by about 10 lengths. Very nice horse. No shortage of experience. Horse for the course. I'm not convinced he's a Derby contender, but I'll be playing him heavily in the top two spots of my exactas here.
Frosted (5/2): One of my first cars was a VW Rabbit. Blue. Gear shifter shaped like a skull. I loved that car. It was running great and could do anything. One day I was driving along and it just stopped. In the middle of the road. Never ran again. Too sad. Frosted makes me think of that car. After two nice seconds in big stakes races, his last outing was in the Fountain of Youth. He was in control at the top of the stretch and looked ready to run away with the race. Then he just stopped. Like my car. He made it home fourth, but his last furlong was only slightly faster than I could have run it. It was one of the more bizarre things I have seen in a while in racing. Why it happened is a total mystery. Will it happen again? Or will the horse shake it off and show more of that explosive potential he was showing up to that point? Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is having a wild ride on the Triple Crown trail this year, is as good as they come. I have some faith in him, and I like the horse. The price could be right to back him - especially because none of the other two I mentioned already have me camped out on the edge of my seat.
Raphael Esparza will be handicapping the Blue Grass Stakes, the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial this weekend. Esparza is one of the best horse racing handicappers in the nation, and he is expecting a big payday this weekend and throughout the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He scored a big profit two weeks ago in the Spiral Stakes with $20 across the board on a 16-1 long shot, and he expects more profits this weekend. Get his weekend picks for all three races here for only $30, or new clients can take advantage of Doc's no-hassle $60 free picks offer and get Esparza's weekend racing picks and still have a $30 credit to use for any picks from any handicapper on the site. Click here for $60 worth of free picks.
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