Wood Winner Outworks Longshot
By Dick Downey
Updated April 10, 2016
Outwork was tenacious winning the Wood Memorial on a muddy-sealed track at Aqueduct for the Todd Pletcher barn.
The time was a less than torrid 1:52.92, and perhaps that can be chalked up to the condition of the track. Regardless, Outwork is in the Kentucky Derby picture now with 100 qualifying points.
After contesting fractions of 22.91, 46.93 and 1:12.31 with Matt King Coal, Outwork stayed on while the other one regressed. Ridden by John Velazquez, Outwork outfought the rail-hugging Trojan Nation, sent off at 81-1 odds after going winless in five starts at Santa Anita, to the wire to win by a head. Owner Mike Repole said after the race he thinks Outwork would have lost had there been another jump in the race.
Adventist came on in the stretch to finish third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths,edging Matt King Coal by a neck. Shagaf, the 9-5 post-time favorite, disappointed to finish fifth, another 1 1/2 length back.
Tale of S'avall, Flexibility and Dalmore rounded out the order of finish.
Trojan Nation, who picked up 40 Kentucky Derby points, now looks to run for the roses as a maiden for trainer Paddy Gallagher. Adventist got 20 points and Matt King Coal 10.
Shagaf was awarded 50 Derby points when he won the Gotham Stakes in March. Immediately after the Wood Memorial, all indications were that Shagaf would go on to the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Chad Brown previously indicated Shagaf would ship to Churchill Downs early.
It was only Outwork's fourth career start, and his first one came almost a year ago sprinting at Keeneland. After a long layoff, he won a six-furlong allowance at Tampa Bay Downs in February and followed that up with a good second-place finish in March to a track record-setting Destin in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby.
The winner paid $6.80, $4.80 and $3.90 as the second betting choice. Trojan Nation returned $40.60 and $13.40 to place and show. Adventist paid $4.90 to show. The $2 exacta generated a $31.950 payoff.
Outwork is a son of Uncle Mo out of the Empire Maker mare Nonna Mia. Repole, who campaigned Uncle Mo only to lose the Wood Memorial as the favorite, bred Outwork as Repole Stable. The colt was bred in Kentucky.
Todd Pletcher, winning trainer - "Until you actually run on an off track, you never really know for sure. I thought he handled that part really well. I think he lost focus a little bit when he made the lead. Johnny said he idled a bit on him. Plus he was getting a little tired. They ran along the first part pretty well. I was hoping that didn't catch up with him late.
"Forget the Derby, forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win for him in only his fourth lifetime start. To win a grade 1 in only his fourth start is extra gratifying for our team, because five years ago Uncle Mo didn't win the Wood Memorial. It's sort of vindication in some ways for him, and to win it with a son of Uncle Mo is a pretty cool story."
John Velazquez, winning jockey - "Broke really well. He was going a little too fast in the first turn and I had to get him a little easy in the first turn. Everyone was pushing outside and I had to let him settle down. The other horse came to him and he picked it up a little bit on the backstretch. I got him away from him to relax, and then at the quarter pole he put his ears up, idled a lot. He is still a young horse who is still learning. He has mastered a lot and he showed a lot of heart, he went from three-quarters to a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth in a very short time."
Mike Repole, winning owner - "To come back here five years later, with a son of Uncle Mo ... that was one of my toughest racing days, and this is one of my best racing days. My little daughter is nine months old, she won her first grade 1, it took me 42 years. She's brought me some pretty good luck. I was scared a lot when I saw that horse coming up along the rail. (Outwork has) only had four starts and one of them was 4 1/2 furlongs in April. He's so young. He's only getting better. Thank God the wire came up because another jump, he probably wouldn't have made it."
Aaron Gryder, aboard Trojan Nation - "He got a great trip. They told me early on, take him back and make one run. If you go too slow, we have no excuse. If they go too fast and you can't catch him we have no excuse. I just tried to save every inch of ground. We were able to save ground on both turns and he just ran a really gallant race. He was very brave in defeat. It was a very strong effort. They've got options. They can run him from a maiden race to the Kentucky Derby in his next start. He definitely has a bright future. He just ran second against seasoned horses. He's run a few times, but he's yet to get to the winner's circle. He's an improving horse and a distance limitation is not going to be a problem."
Leah Gyarmati, trainer Adventist - "He ran fantastic He went a little wide on the second turn, but that I guess that's the way things worked out on the second turn if you wanted a free run. He beat some nice horses; he beat the horses that were picked to win. He shows up every time. He's a legitimate horse. With the third-place we earn enough points ... we'll talk with Mr. Treadway and decide form there."
Kendrick Carmouche, aboard Adventist - "He just keeps getting better every start. He's a young horse. I was proud of the way he ran today."
Chad Brown, trainer fifth-place finisher Shagaf and seventh-place finisher Flexibiility - "They were going pretty good up front. We were a little farther back than we thought, but the pace was strong. I thought (Shagaf) would've probably been better suited if he tipped him out when the field was strung out; got him out of the mud and into the clear but he elected to go inside. He made a sharp middle move there and then he just had enough of the mud. We'll just see how the horse comes out of the race and go from here. If the horse is healthy I'm inclined to hope for a dry track at Churchill and a better trip. I'm confident the horse can get a mile and a quarter."