Gemologist will put his unbeaten record on the line on Saturday at the $1 million, Gr. I Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct.
The Todd Pletcher-trainee will face seven rivals that include Withers and Count Fleet winner Alpha and the pretty consistent contender My Adonis.
Gemologist is four-for-four lifetime and comes from defeating Derby hopeful Currency Swap on an allowance race last month at Gulfstream Park.
He was making his long-awaited debut as a three-year-old after being touted as one of the top prospects last year when he won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.
A son of Tiznow out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard, Gemologist has a pedigree that suggests he should be able to cover the nine furlong distance. However, as a speedster, he will get his first true test at it on Saturday.
He is a colt that has shown great ability to run on the lead, but with the presence of The Lumber Guy and Teeth of the Dog, he will have to show the ability to rate.
It will benefit him to stalk the pace, since he might want to have something in reserve when his main rival, Alpha, makes his move around the turn and into the home stretch.
Gemologist, who will have Javier Castellano aboard, should look no further than the race he did at the Kentucky Jockey Club win. He was able to settle behind the pace setters and took over around the far turn before driving away from the regarded Ever So Lucky.
Alpha has only been beaten by the best of the division so far. Only Union Rags, Hansen and Creative Cause can claim they have finished better than Alpha in a race.
Who will win the Wood Memorial?
Maybe that was the reasoning behind the dancing around when selecting which was going to be his last Derby prep race—none of them will be present on the gate on Saturday.
Alpha has yet to defeat top stakes competition, but one thing is for sure, since adding Lasix this year he has been better than ever.
He has steadily improved his Beyer figures and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has kept him training very well up to this race.
Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez will repeat the mount. So this duel will go beyond the two horses, it will be between the nation's top two jockeys this year.
If you want to look for value after the top two contenders, you will be hard pressed to go beyond My Adonis. He is clearly the third-best horse in the race, but much like Alpha, he has been losing only to the top of the division.
He comes from finishing second to Hansen at the Gotham, and third to Algorithms and Hansen in the Holy Bull prior to that.
On the Holy Bull, he was bumped hard at the start and dropped back 20 lengths before finishing with a furious rally that fell half-length short of defeating Hansen.
On the Gotham, he couldn't get to Hansen who defeated him drawing clear in the stretch.
The concerns regarding My Adonis are whether he can handle the extra distance and just how good really are the top two horses in this race. If Gemologist and Alpha are up to the class of the top of the division then My Adonis is running for third here.
The only other horse that could challenge Gemologist and Alpha is Street Life.
He is an improving colt that—much like his sire—is getting better with the added distance. Expect to see him closing in on the leaders down the stretch and if there is a decent pace up front, he might be able to catch them before the wire.
The added distance could benefit Street Life, who is trained by Chad Brown and will have junior Alvarado aboard.
EXPECTED WINNER: 6 - Gemologist
PLACE: 1 - Alpha
SHOW: 5 - Street Life
Wood Memorial | Grade I | Purse: $1,000,000 | Distance: 9 Furlongs | Post Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
|1||Alpha||R.A. Dominguez ||K. McLaughlin||5/2
|2|| Casual Trick ||C.S. Nakatani||N. Zito ||20/1|
|3|| My Adonis ||E. Trujillo||K. Breen||8/1|
|4|| Teeth of the Dog ||J.Bravo||M. Matz||15/1|
|5|| Street Life ||J. Alvarado||C. Brown||4/1|
|6||Gemologist||J. J. Castellano ||T. Pletcher ||8/5|
|7|| Tiger Walk ||J. R. Velazquez ||I. Correas IV ||15/1|
|8|| The Lumber Guy ||C. Velasquez||M. Hushion ||8/1|