Gemologist Gets It Done
Photo by NYRA, Adam Coglianese
By Dick Downey
Gemologist, favored at 6-5, won the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to book a berth in the Kentucky Derby.
Usually a forwardly-running influence, Gemologist was content to rate in third behind a pace set by The Lumber Guy, who led the field through rank fractions of :23.04, :47.56 and 1:12.
My Adonis was positioned in second during all the running until the field turned for home, closer to the early pace than many onlookers expected. Leaving the far turn, both My Adonis and Gemologist moved to overtake The Lumber Guy, and both did. But Gemologist soon put away My Adonis and then held off an advancing Alpha, the 2-1 second choice among bettors. Alpha finished well after being steadied in the first turn while inside.
Gemologist and Javier Castellano hit the wire first to finish the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:50.96, with Alpha only a neck back in second. Teeth of the Dog, the longest shot in the field at 53-1, ran had tracked Alpha and finished a non-threatening third, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, followed another 1 3/4 length by Tiger Walk, sent off at 17-1.
The Lumber Guy, Street Life, My Adonis and Casual Trick completed the order of finish.
With the win, Gemologist's record remained unblemished with five wins in five starts. The Wood Memorial was his second start of the year after he easily took a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Last year, his highlight victory was the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.
Gemologist paid $4.40, $3.00 and $2.40.
From the $1 million purse, the winner earned $600,000, pushing his graded stakes earnings to $703,855, more than enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Alpha, who needed a top-three finish to forge ahead to the Derby, got $200,000 from the Wood, and he now has $380,000 graded money.
Teeth of the Dog was making his stakes debut and earned $100,000. Tiger Walk, who had $40,000 graded money going in, had $90,000 when it was over.
Owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Gemologist is a son of Tiznow. He's out of Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector, and was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and the Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust 2. He's a $310,000 Keeneland September 2010 purchase.
Todd Pletcher, winning trainer: “It looked like he got the trip we wanted. Javier said he waited a little bit when he made the lead, and that he was proud of him for finding more when Alpha loomed up on him. Not only Gemologist, I thought Alpha ran a terrific race as well, overcoming a bit of traffic trouble on the first turn.
“So far, it would be hard to be unhappy with anything he’s done so far his whole career. It was great to see. It looked like he had a little something left after the wire, so I think from a conditioning standpoint, with a good mile race and a good 1 1/8-mile race under our belt, hopefully we can have a good month of training leading up to it.
“When he came back, he wasn’t blowing like an exhausted horse. I think his fitness level is pretty good. I think he can (improve). He’s still waiting a little bit. Javier said he was still looking around a little bit. He’s still learning.”
On the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby: “Being by a dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, one of those at Churchill Downs, and with this horse being two-for-two at Churchill Downs, I think he’d have as good a chance as anybody.”
Javier Castellano, winning jockey: “It worked out great for me. He settled perfectly. I wanted a target. I didn’t want to be on the lead. I had a great trip. Turning for home, he was looking around at horses. When I asked him, he took off again. I like that. I was concerned (when I saw Alpha closing) because my horse was still looking around at the crowd. When he saw the horse coming, he took off again.”
Elliot Walden of WinStar Farm, winning owner: “That’s a great win, he’s a great horse. This stamps him as a Derby prospect, which we’re excited about. We needed the earnings today. More importantly, it puts him in our stallion barn, and that’s what we look for is horses that we can bring home eventually. Winning a grade I like the Wood Memorial, it’s one the best races to win as a 3-year-old, so it’s great that way as well.”
Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Alpha: “Ramon said he thought maybe the winner was waiting for us a little bit. We had a true test, and we passed our test, we just didn’t win. He was very good in the gate. I don’t know if people noticed, but nobody was in the gate with him. We asked for no handler today. He was very good in the gate, he got checked into the first turn hard, but he still ran great with a little traffic and took the dirt well. We got beat “a zop”, but we’re going on to May 5.
"It was a good race and a good test, he did everything right except not win. Gemologist won, so he’s a very nice horse and a great outfit. You have to respect Todd and the ride and the horse; he’s still undefeated. This actually probably was the most impressive race as a trainer with Alpha because of everything that happened. He wasn’t out three wide in the clear, and he was running against quality horses and ran very well. So, we’ll make sure with Simon Crisford that we’re going on to May 5, but that’s what we intend to do, and we’ve got the earnings now. Great run, we just missed.”
Ramon Dominguez, rider aboard Alpha: “The only unfortunate thing that happened was going into the first turn, there was a lot of pressure coming from the outside. I had to take up because I was almost on the rail, they were kind of bouncing into me, and it cost me some position going into the first turn. It didn’t take long after that to get him into gear. From there I had a great trip.
Turning for home, I got excited. I thought I was going to run down the winner. It seemed like the closer I got to him, the other horse was kind of looking around somewhere. When he felt my pressure, he went on again. I’m very happy with my horse, I thought he took a step forward from his last race. Today he got tested, he was towards the inside getting kickback, had trouble on the first turn and despite all that it was a very solid performance.”
Joss Saville, assistant to Michael Matz, trainer of Teeth of the Dog: “We talked about it beforehand and felt there were a few that would go on (to the lead). If he made the front, fine, but he didn’t have to. He got bumped there on the first turn and got pushed back a bit. He’s a very nice horse and next race will be better. I was disappointed he got bumped. When I saw him going down the backside, he was making a nice move, and I was happy.”
Joe Bravo, rider aboard Teeth of the Dog: “Michael Matz brings them to the races ready to run. He was there at the top of the lane. He was there.”