The Wood Memorial Stakes is one of the most famous horse races in the United States, and the excitement surrounding the 2014 edition of the annual race from Queens, New York has the sport in a frenzy.
With this being one of the final preparation races for the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, the focus on which horses look strong in this field will determine just how much talent should be expected next month.
Here is all the vital viewing information, the post positions for Saturday’s race, all the betting odds and a preview of the Wood Memorial Stakes.
Where: Aqueduct Racetrack, Ozone Park, Queens, New York
When: Saturday, April 5
Post Time: 5:40 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: Horse Racing TV (subscription required)
Source: Horse Racing Nation
Top Contenders to Watch
While there are several horses that could conceivably win on the 1 1/8-mile track, the favorite for Saturday’s race is Social Inclusion. Led by trainer Manuel Azpurua and jockey Luis Contreras, this could be the perfect storm of success.
Daily Racing Form’s David Grening shared a photo on Twitter that shows the horse and his jockey preparing for Saturday’s big race:
Social Inclusion second time around under Contreras. pic.twitter.com/gukEaz3HR1— David Grening (@DRFGrening) April 2, 2014
Social Inclusion lacks the big-race experience leading into this event, but the entire team is hoping the horse's two consecutive victories leading into this weekend’s Wood Memorial will launch him to a victory.
With the Kentucky Derby approaching fast, Social Inclusion is looking to join the other 11 horses that managed to win in New York and then convert that success into a victory on the first leg of the Triple Crown.
If the lack of experience for Social Inclusion is too much of a risk for bettors, the much safer wager is on Samraat. With a tough tandem of trainer Richard Violette Jr. and jockey Jose Ortiz, this is a horse worth the 7-2 odds.
One of the horse’s owners, Louise Riggio, told Jennie Rees of USA Today (via The Courier-Journal) about Samraat’s success and what the team expects from him at the Wood memorial:
I just saw him taking off, that duel (with) Uncle Sigh. It was like old world racing. It was like, 'That's our boy, there.' When he started pulling away and we were, 'Oh, my gosh, he's going to win! He's going to win!' The Gotham, the three of them coming around that turn, it's out of movies. Same thing. Yeah, it's very magical.
To expect him to win the Wood, we always just want him safe. Stay out of trouble, keep him safe. So we'll see where the road takes us, but now it just gives us more pleasure than you could imagine.
Samraat has won each of his last five races. While that feat is impressive enough on its own, the fact that four of those events came at the Aqueduct Racetrack, including the Damon Runyon Stakes, Withers Stakes and Gotham stakes, indicates he should be a favorite to win.
The deep field and a tough starting position in the No. 8 post will make a clean victory hard to accomplish, but this horse has the speed and endurance to make a splash on Sunday and in the Kentucky Derby.
At 8-1 betting odds, the horse worth an educated risk on Saturday will be Harpoon. Led by legendary trainer Todd Pletcher and veteran jockey John Velazquez, this horse has the right mix of natural talent and experience to make a run at the victory.
Who ya got?
After finishing second four times and winning one race since September of 2013, Harpoon has the advantage of coming out of the No. 4 post and will utilize his speed and strength to get out to an early lead.
Whether he has the stamina to run out in front during the whole race is the ultimate gamble.
*Stats via HorseRacingNation.com.