The Wood Memorial is a great test for the best three-year-old thoroughbreds looking to compete in the Triple Crown. However, only the top horses will be able to advance.
This competition at Aqueduct Racetrack will be nine furlongs as a practice for the Kentucky Derby and other high-profile events. The winner of this race often goes on to have plenty of success going forward.
The problem is that this loaded field makes it difficult to predict a winner. Each of the 10 horses (not counting Kid Cruz which scratched) has experience and plenty of past success heading into the race.
It will not be easy for any of the competitors, but here is a look at predictions for the upcoming event.
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)
Samraat has had quite an impressive start to his career with five wins in five starts. Even more encouraging is his ability to improve every time out.
The Wall Street Journal took a look at pace numbers to note this improvement:
Undefeated in 5 lifetime starts with two graded stakes wins and $583K in lifetime earnings puts Samraat as the class of the race. The final Pace Figure in all five of his starts has increased each race, from 71.4, 71.6, 72.1, 72.9 to 78.3 his last out.
Samraat's last two races were Grade III stakes, and he defeated Uncle Sigh in each race. However, this will be a large jump in competition compared to what he is used to seeing.
He will have a strong run, but the rest of the field might be too tough for him to come out with a win.
Who will win?
In the past six races for Harpoon, he only has earned one win. However, he has four second-place finishes and one fifth-place finish in a Grade III at Aqueduct.
While the thoroughbred has been a bit inconsistent during his career, he still has shown great talent and the ability to finish near the front of the pack in this competition.
Most importantly, he has a great team surrounding him with trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez. These two have plenty of experience winning major races like the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.
With a strong showing in this one, Harpoon has what it takes to challenge for a win.
Win: Social Inclusion
After back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park, Social Inclusion has turned himself into a major contender for the Triple Crown.
Owner Ronald Sanchez has certainly changed his opinion on his horse recently, via Claire Novak of ESPN:
Our plan was to come here for the Wood and then go directly to the Preakness, but last time he ran so good we started thinking about the Derby and the Triple Crown. This horse is really special. If you see the workouts he does, he's floating. Last Saturday he went in :46 ⅘ seconds and galloped out in :59 ⅗ seconds, so easy. He's a classy horse, and you have to give him the chance. He's a professional horse, and it's hard to find a professional horse. We respect all the horses, but we're not scared of anybody.
Based on what we have seen, there is no reason for Social Inclusion to be scared of anyone. The horse has posted incredible times in his races and is clearly capable of dominating from start to finish.
The only question is if he can come from behind to win late. This is the only thing he needs to prove and if he does, you can pencil him in as a favorite for every other race going forward.
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