Wood Memorial Stakes | History | Race Profile
Wood Memorial Stakes Race History
Wood Memorial Helpful Facts
The Wood Memorial Stakes is one of the feature Kentucky Derby prep races. It is contested over 1 1/8th miles and lays a purse of $1,000,000. The race is restricted to three-year-olds and has been run annually since 1925 out of Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.
Eleven horses have scored the double in the Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby, while many others have secured other big wins. Perhaps the most well known loser of this race is Secretariat, who lost the 1973 renewal to Angle Light.
Bellamy Road set the new speed record with a time of 1:47.16 while winning by an astonishing margin of 17 ½ lengths in 2005. He would enter the Kentucky Derby as the heavy favorite, but fall to seventh overall.
- Eskenderya was the 2010 Wood Memorial winner, and the Kentucky Derby favorite that year but had to be pulled due to injury that eventually ended his career. He also won the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
- Tapit’s biggest career win came in the 2004 Wood Memorial Stakes. In the Kentucky Derby, he was given 5/1 odds as the second choice but fell to ninth in arace won by Smarty Jones. Though hisr racing career fell short of expectation, he went on to become the most important sire in American racing.
- Empire Maker was the 2003 Wood Memorial and Florida Derby winner. He placed second behind Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby, He skipped the Preakness Stakes, which was also won by Funny Cide, and then ruined a Triple Crown bid by winning the Belmont Stakes.
- Fusaichi Pegasus is the most recent horse to win the Wood Memorial Stakes and the Kentucky Derby having done so in 2000.
- Captain Bodgit won the 1997 Wood Memorial and Florida Derby, then finished second behind in the Kentucky Derby despite posting as the 2/1. favorite. He placed third in the Preakness, losing to Silver Charm a second time in a race considered by many to be one of the best of the century. He sustained an injury and never raced again.
- Unbridled’s Song never developed farther than winning the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the 1996 Florida Derby and the 1996 Wood Memorial.
- Easy Goer won the 1989 Wood Memorial Stakes and then entered the Kentucky Derby as a massive 1/5 favorite but lost that race and the Preakness to Sunday Silence. He would go on to win the Belmont, and then los to Sunday Silence one more time in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year.
- Gulch won the 1987 Wood Memorial and the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
- Pleasant Colony was the 1981 Wood Memorial Stakes winner and then went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before finishing third in the Belmont Stakes.
- Seattle Slew used the 1977 Wood Memorial as a winning warm up for his eventual 1977 Triple Crown Sweep.
- Foolish Pleasure won both the 1975 Kentucky Derby and the 1975 Wood Memorial. He was essentially an even money favorite in the derby. He was also favored in the Preakness but lost to Master Derby, and then ran as runner-up to Avatar in the Belmont.
- Personality scored a double in the 1970 Wood Memorial Stakes and the Preakness Stakes, but finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby.
- Dancer’s Image claimed victory in the 1968 Wood Memorial and then crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified due to a banned substance.
- Damascus won the 1967 Wood Memorial, Remsen Stakes, Travers Stakes, Dwyer Stakes, Preakness and Belmont. He also ran in the Kentucky Derby but finished third.
- Amberoid won the 1966 Wood Memorial but was a dud in the Kentucky Derby. He finished third in the Preakness prior to winning the Belmont Stakes.
- Quadrangle earned a 1964 Wood Memorial win but failed to finish in the money for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He did, however, win the Belmont Stakes.
- Bold Ruler won a litany of races in 1957 including the Wood Memorial and the Preakness Stakes. He was the strong favorite at 6/5 in the Kentucky Derby but lost to Iron Liege as he finished fourth overall.
- Nashua was the first winner of the Florida Derby to go on to enjoy success in the Triple Crown. He was the 1/3 favorite to win the 1955 Kentucky Derby, but was upset by Swaps. Nashua would rebound and win the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes on route to a Hall of Fame career. He also scored in the Wood Memorial.
- Native Dancer was the 1953 Wood Memorial victory, and suffered the only loss of his illustrious career in that year’s Kentucky Derby despite being listed as an overwhelming favorite. He would rebound in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and go on to have one of the most incredible careers of any competitor in the sport.
- Hill Prince had a great 1950 campaign that included wins in the Wood Memorial, Withers, American Derby, Jockey Club Gold, Sunset Handicap, Jerome and the Preakness Stakes. He lost both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont to Middleground.
- Phalanx entered the 1947 Kentucky Derby as the betting favorite with even money odds after winning the Wood Memorial. He would come second in the first leg of the Triple Crown, third in the next and win the Belmont Stakes by 5 ½ lengths.
- Assault won eighteen races during his incredible career including the 1946 Wood Memorial which propelled him to a sweep of the 1946 Triple Crown.
- Hoop Jr. won the 1945 Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby.
- Count Fleet ticked off the 1943 Wood Memorial prior to winning all three races in that year’s Triple Crown.
- Johnstown won the 1939 Wood Memorial, and advanced to the Kentucky Derby as a nominal 1/11 favorite. He won that race, but lost the Preakness and then scored big in the Belmont Stakes.
- High Quest was the 1934 Wood Memorial and Preakness Stakes winner. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
- High Ground was the 1931 Wood Memorial winner and then won the Kentucky Derby as a heavy favorite. He would go on to finish second to Mate in the Preakness but rebounded nicely to win the Belmont Stakes and come close to capturing a Triple Crown.
- Gallant Fox is one of the most notable champions that won the Wood Memorial. He would use it as a starting point for his 1930 Triple Crown win in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
Origins of the Wood Memorial
The Wood Memorial has been New York’s leading prep for the Triple Crown since it was inaugurated in the mid-1920s at Jamaica Race Course. The race was named after Eugene Wood, a past president of Jamaica.
Run at its present distance of nine furlongs since 1952, the Wood Memorial was moved to Aqueduct in 1960 after Jamaica’s closure.
Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox (1930), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946) and Seattle Slew (1977) all won the Wood Memorial, while Omaha (1935) and Secretariat (1973) both ran third in the Wood before rebounding at Churchill Downs. Secretariat was famously defeated by stablemate Angle Light.
Other three-year-olds who completed the Wood Memorial-Kentucky Derby double include Twenty Grand (1931), Johnstown (1939), Hoop Jr. (1945), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Bold Forbes (1976), and Pleasant Colony (1981).
Wood Memorial winners who went on to win other classics and/or be named three-year-old champion include Phalanx (1947), Hill Prince (1950), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Bold Ruler (1957), Quadrangle (1964), Amberoid (1966), Damascus (1967), Personality (1970), Slew o’ Gold (1983), Easy Goer (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and Empire Maker (2003).
The Wood has also been won by Plugged Nickle (1980) and Gulch (1987), both of whom went on to win sprint championships.
Numerous Wood Memorial winners not previously mentioned have gone on to make their mark in the breeding shed, including the gray duo of Unbridled’s Song (1995) and Tapit (2004) as well as Broad Brush (1986), who kept the famed Domino sire line alive into the 21st century.
Eddie Arcaro, known as “The Master,” won more Wood Memorials – nine – than any other jockey. Angel Cordero Jr. is second on the list with four wins.
“Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons trained a record seven winners of the Wood Memorial, including Hall of Famers Gallant Fox, Nashua, and Bold Ruler. He also won the race four years in a row from 1936-39.
Bellamy Road (2005) owns the Wood Memorial stakes record of 1:47 after his 17 1/2-length triumph.