By Dick Downey
Verrazano and Vyjack are expected to head the field for the 89th running of the Grade I Wood Memorial on April 6. Both are undefeated. Most recently, Verrazano won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, and Vyjack took the Grade III Gotham.
According to the New York Racing Association, also expected are Gotham runner-up and third-place finisher West Hills Giant and Elnaawi; Mr Palmer, winner of the Private Terms at Laurel Park; Normandy Invasion, most recently fifth in the Grade II Risen Star; Always in a Tiz, fifth in Oaklawn’s Grade III Southwest; and maiden winners Freedom Child and Quinzieme Monarque.
The NYRA press office says that Indy’s Illusion, entered in the Grade I Florida Derby, is possible.
Go Get the Basil, The Truth and K G and Transparent were mentioned last week for the Wood, but they aren't on NYRA's probables list today. Siete de Oros missed a workout last weekend and also wasn't on today's list.
Escapefromreality, second in the Withers but ninth in the Gotham, is being pointed to the Times Square division of the New York Stallion Series on May 5 at Belmont Park, the day after the Kentucky Derby.
Bay Shore Probables
The seven-furlong, Grade III Bay Shore is expected to attract Maleeh, winner of Aqueduct’s Fred “Cappy” Capossela; Grade III Swale winner Clearly Now; Grade II Hutcheson winner Honorable Dillon, and Glowing Ember, Retreive, Salutos Amigos, Silver Morgan, and Summer Exclusive.
Borel to New York
Calvin Borel will ride Always in a Tiz in the Wood. “Anthony Bonomo, Jr., who is the racing manager for MeB Stables, and I discussed it before making the decision,” said trainer Domick Schettino. “He knows how to win the big races and he knows how to win the Derby.”
Borel's last appearance at Aqueduct came in 2010, when he was second on Jackson Bend in the Wood Memorial and second on Hurricane Ike in the Bay Shore.
Mr Palmer's Changed
And it's for the better.
“I didn’t see him for two months, and he’s changed from when he first arrived from Churchill (last Fall),” said Leana Willaford, assistant to trainer Bill Mott. “He’s mentally and physically matured a lot. He’s an attractive horse and a good mover, and as it turned out he’s going to be (a good horse). He’s made a steady progression almost every start. Some horses just take a little longer.”
Junior Alvarado, known to be a patient rider, will have the mount in the Wood. Willaford said Mr Palmer starts slowly from the gate.
“Whatever the reasons are, he has a tendency to be a little flat footed,” said Willaford. “Your best move is to let him get himself together and make a run like what Junior did with him last time. He ended up seven wide the other day, but he understands it takes a little to get the horse running. He has to get comfortable with himself, and he takes a little bit of riding. With those types, you don’t want to be tapping on the brakes.”