Mucciolo: Wood Memorial Day graded plays

April 7th, 2018

A handful of graded races, led by the Wood Memorial (G2), highlight the Saturday card at Aqueduct. I see potential value in at least a few of the events:

Wood Memorial

RESTORING HOPE is just a maiden winner who has yet to “run out of his skin” for Bob Baffert. But the connections have long admired the ability of the colt who landed in a very winnable spot for a stakes debut. With a good post draw and likely favorable pace scenario to work with while pressing the early tempo, the Giant’s Causeway colt gets top billing in this major prep for the Kentucky Derby.

VINO ROSSO and EVALUATOR are my key horses under Restoring Hope for the vertical exotics.

Carter (G1)

Seven-furlong sprint features 11 going to post in possibly the best betting option of the stakes races. AWESOME SLEW is the one to beat. Multiple graded winning star was last seen finishing third against a fine cast in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) for Mark Casse.

Awesome Slew is coming off of a five-month layoff, giving weight to all of his rivals, and also draws widest in a sizable field. I have to try and find another.

ARMY MULE has been super impressive from two lifetime races, posting BRIS Speed numbers of 100 and 105 to date in the process. Todd Pletcher trainee gets a tricky post near the rail, though, and he will not be my play in a solid field at likely short odds.

SKYLER’S SCRAMJET is my selection. Michelle Nevin trainee has never been better with a pair of wins to start 2018, including a fine tally in the Tom Fool (G3) in preparation of the Carter. Son of Creative Cause is four-for-five at Aqueduct and comes in with a bullet half-mile to stay sharp. A pace-pressing trip under Trevor McCarthy is expected.

Gazelle (G2)

Busher third MY MISS LILY gets the nod. Mark Hennig trainee will make a two-turn debut today and figures to show improvement with the added ground. Tapit filly hit the gate to hurt her chances in the Busher and a cleaner voyage will have her right there late at a fair price.

Filly shows a trio of recent morning drills and gets Joe Bravo for the initial time.

Bay Shore (G3)

Six of the seven three-year-olds in the seven-furlong dash are coming off wins. NATIONAL FLAG comes off a huge allowance performance at Gulfstream Park in a seasonal debut for Plecther. And while the chestnut defeated ENGAGE at Saratoga in the summer, I prefer the latter.

Chad Brown’s Engage was a three-length winner of the Futurity (G3) in a two-year-old finale and has trained well in the interim. John Velazquez getting off of National Flag to ride this one for the first time tells me something.

Excelsior (G3)

BACKSIDEOFTHEMOON (8-1 morning line) is most intriguing to me at a good price. Leo O’Brien pupil got up to take the Jazil S. at the track and distance two back. And I loved the prep for today when he finished second going a one-turn mile with a wide voyage.

Son of Malibu Moon is a four-time local winner making a second run off the layoff. And drawing the rail seems ideal in a field with some early pace in the fold.