Verrazano, Vyjack square off in the Wood Memorial this weekend, and we believe that the odds makers have set out some great value. Find out where we are looking to place our sports picks in this event.
Saturday’s $1,000,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct features two unbeaten contenders meeting as part of its field of 10 challengers. No. 8 Verrazano ships up from Florida as the contest’s 4/5 morning-line favorite, while No. 5 Vyjack is the clash’s top “home dog” at 4/1 odds.
Will one of the race’s top two be best to back here, or is a long shot out there who can collect?
Verrazano, Vyjack cruise in Tampa Bay, Gotham
Verrazano’s latest victory came in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9, coasting gate-to-wire en route to a three-length win. Trainer Todd Pletcher has captured two of the last three Wood Memorial’s, connecting with rider John Velazquez in 2010 with Eskendereya’s triumph.
Vyjack extended his winning streak to a 4-for-4 mark with last month’s Gotham Stakes victory at Aqueduct, closing five-wide in the stretch. Rider Joel Rosario stays aboard here with a sizable 18-for-74 (24 percent) winning mark at the “Big A,” while trainer Rudy Rodriguez is a hot 59-for-191 (31 percent).
The top duo faces its biggest threat from No. 2 Normandy Invasion (5/1), with another top rider Javier Castellano (23-for-89) looking to repeat last year’s Wood Memorial win aboard Gemologist. Normandy Invasion has been idle since Feb. 23, logging a tough fifth-place trip in Fair Grounds’ Risen Star Stakes.
Elnaawi, Mr Palmer lead off long shots
No. 4 Elnaawi and No. 6 Mr Palmer begin the field’s longer shots, both listed at betting odds of 12/1. Elnaawi is the son of former Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and closed to finished third in the Gotham. Mr Palmer broke maiden at Aqueduct in February after going winless in his first five starts, followed by capturing Laurel’s Private Terms Stakes by 3 ½ lengths last month.
No. 7 Always in a Tiz (15/1) has not reached the winner’s circle since September’s debut at Saratoga, while his last action was February’s fifth-place outing in Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes. Jockey Calvin Borel invades to get the mount here for trainer Dominick Schettino, who has had his Aqueduct runners hit the board in 35-of-80 starts.
The field’s highest betting odds rest with its four remaining choices, who are all listed at 30/1.
No. 1 Chrisandthecapper stretches out after breaking maiden in a six-furlong affair at the “Big A” last month. No. 3 Quinzieme Monarque has made the rounds as part of three straight fourth-place finishes, including Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes, four months ago.
No. 9 Go Get the Basil and No. 10 Freedom Child break side-by-side from the end of the gate. Go Get the Basil saw a three-race winning streak end last month at Aqueduct, finishing second by a nose at career-high speed. Freedom Child broke maiden four weeks ago in a 1 1/8-mile contest at Gulfstream Park, going gate-to-wire in a 5 ¼-length triumph.
Selections: Vyjack, Mr Palmer, Go Get the Basil
Saturday’s clash is Race No. 11 on Aqueduct’s card, with an expected post time of 6:28 p.m. (ET). The weather forecast calls for sunny skies and a temperature of 48 degrees.
I am adding Vyjack as my top choice in this affair, while spreading some additional dollars on Mr Palmer and Go Get the Basil at longer odds.
Vyjack’s performance in the Gotham would have normally made him an odds-on favorite to capture the Wood if Verrazano was not shipping north here. The synergy of four straight wins at Aqueduct combined with the meet’s hot numbers from Rosario and Rodriguez are enough to make a 4/1 price have some value.
Mr Palmer has trainer Bill Mott looking for his first Wood Memorial and has an overlay here at double-digit odds. The increased speed from the colt’s win at Laurel has shown some promise, making him ready to step up and contend here.
Go Get the Basil has had all of his starts in the NYRA circuit and may be in a spot here where it could all come together at a high price. The grandson of former Wood Memorial winner and Kentucky Derby standout Fusaichi Pegasus could hit the board here, with career-high speed in his last start and a hot trainer in Richard Violette.