2018 Wood Memorial Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
I feel like the Wood Memorial owes me some money. A lot of it, actually. It's a race that has the ability to make me fall in love with the winner only to disappoint in the Kentucky Derby and beyond. Last year I was convinced that Irish War Cry had it going on. He didn't. Two years before that it was Frosted, who peaked far too late for the Triple Crown. I really liked both I Want Revenge in 2009 and Eskendereya in 2010, and neither was able to make it to the starting gate due to late injuries - on the morning of the race in the case of the former. And I was sure Tapit was going to make me rich in 2004, but you don't get paid when your horse finishes ninth. The year before that I loved Empire Maker in the Derby when he finished second to Funny Cide but had moved on to him by the time he won the Belmont. The last time a horse won the Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby was Fusaichi Pegasus, and I was aggressively against that horse on principle.
All of this failure and frustration is pushing my blood pressure way up. So, let's quit dwelling on the past, and look instead at the cream of this Saturday's nine horse field (horse, jockey, trainer, odds):
Enticed, Junior Alvarado, Kiaran McLaughlin, 6/5: We know that this horse is capable of running on this Aqueduct track because the last time he ran it was on this same track in the Gotham and he won soundly. It was his second race of the year, and it was a much better effort than his fourth place in the Holy Bull. His connections are strong for the race, and his breeding is sound enough, so it makes sense that he has a lot of support. But if he goes off at anything close to this price then he will fit the definition of a vulnerable favorite. In fact, at anything less than 3/1 I will be betting against him aggressively. I am obviously not a believer.
Restoring Hope, Flavien Prat, Bob Baffert, 4/1: This is an interesting horse - one that is tough to judge. First, he has gone through some change lately. He was originally aimed at the Sunland Derby two weeks back but didn't have the earnings to make the full field. Then he was going to be in the Santa Anita Derby this week, but an injury to Baffert's star McKinzi caused some serious shuffling of races for his stable, and this colt wound up here - a much softer spot. He broke his maiden last time out in early February, and that came in his third try and his first at three. So he's not hugely experienced, and he is taking a big step up in class here. But his breeding is excellent, he is working as well as you would expect any top Baffert colt to, and he faces a reasonably manageable spot here. He'll get bet down more than would likely be ideal, so the value won't be high, but he's my top pick here.
Vino Rosso, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 9/2: Pletcher has had a golden touch this spring so far - Noble Indy, who shares an owner with this horse, won the Louisiana Derby last week as the latest of many spring successes. This horse has been one of the rare disappointments. He was strong over the winter and seemed like a top contender, but then he flopped to finish third in the Sam F Davis and then fell further to fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby next. So, in no time flat he went from an A-Level contender to a horse that needs a win to prove his viability in a big way. I'm not holding my breath - though I'm not dumb enough to leave a Pletcher horse with potential entirely off my betting card.
Firenze Fire, Miguel Franco, Jason Servis, 6/1: This is another colt who needs to prove himself after a frustrating spring. He emerged as a serious contender by winning the Champagne last October. But then he was a disappointing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile next time out. He won a listed stakes, the Jerome, to start his three-year-old year but then disappointed in both of the Aqueduct prep races for this race - he was second in the Withers and fourth in the Gotham. He has some Derby points, but not enough, so he needs a result here. I don't think that he'll be quite good enough.
Old Time Revival, Jeremy Rose, Ken Decker, 6/1: In the Gotham last time out this horse tried to run away with the race, and he almost pulled it off - Enticed was the only horse to get past him. He's surely going to try the same thing again, but he is facing more quality this time, and I don't see him getting away with it. I'll use him in my exotics, but not up top.
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