This Saturday is the......I'm going to say this only this one time, here we go.......the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
"We are delighted to partner with TwinSpires.com on Aqueduct's premier race," said Chris Kay, President & Chief Executive Officer for NYRA.And I'm sure that Chris Kay and NYRA will also be delighted when NYRA Rewards customers, perhaps attracted by their 'Wood Winback' promotion, give TwinSpires.com a try and maybe decide to switch. Only in horse racing.
The race is shaping up to be an interesting one and, regarding the weather, let's just say that the forecast is not terrible and it's still early in the week. (On the other hand, it's still early in the week..)
Haven't seen any official word from NYRA, but this is the weekend that the Longshots bar/simulcast center on the second floor is finally supposed to be open. I was at the Big A a couple of weekends ago, and things were humming there. The air conditioning from the new bar was blasting out into the clubhouse. Workers were streaming in and out, and there were a lot of crates around, like this one.
I always figure that things are wrapping up when the Modesty Panels come out. So I'm thinking and hoping that I'll see you there on Saturday. Have to say that, for a place that's so dirty and dangerous, things have definitely improved at the Big A this year. Get this Longshots open, do something about the seating in the common areas, and it might again be an accommodating enough place so that we'll be really pissed when they close the track down.
Social Inclusion has arrived by van. He needs to finish first or second to nail down a Derby spot, and I wonder if his connections have any second thoughts about the decision to ship him up here instead of running in the Florida Derby. The race did not come up particularly fast, at least on the TimeformUS speed figure scale, and the pace was moderate, well within his means. On the other hand, Wildcat Red is probably not the kind to let most any horse get out on the lead by himself, so I'm sure the pace would have been far quicker has he been there. (I wrote more about the Florida Derby here.)
In the Wood however, I don't know that either Samraat or Uncle Sigh, at least, have much incentive to risk getting involved in a suicidal pace duel with the speedy Florida invader. Especially the latter. Uncle Sigh only needs to finish third to insure getting in to the Derby, and I think he'll be ridden with that in mind. Sure, he's a NY-bred so I'm sure his owners would love to see him win the Wood. But not at the possible expense of blowing a Derby spot.
Samraat, who is clearly not a "need-to-lead type" despite what Joe Drape wrote in the Times on Monday (apparently Drape is too busy trying to tear down the sport to actually pay attention to what is going on in it), is already guaranteed a Derby spot. Two of my biggest Derby scores were on horses who ran in, but did not win the Wood - Genuine Risk and Monarchos. Both obviously used the race as a prep, and trainer Rick Violette has options here. One of them could be to turn Samraat loose on Social Inclusion; let him get a little tired and gain some fitness. But I'd think it's more likely that Samraat gets in some work and perhaps some situational education, as Mike Smith seemed to do with Intense Holiday at Fair Grounds on Saturday. And/or, of course, Samraat - and Uncle Sigh as well - might just be better than Social Inclusion, perhaps we'll get a chance to find out.