All eyes on Risk Taking in the Wood Memorial

Matt Bernier
·4 min read

The Grade 2 Wood Memorial has not had a great deal of success when it comes to producing meaningful Kentucky Derby entrants over the past 20 years. The race has delivered one Derby winner since 2003 (Funny Cide) and only one top-three finisher in the Derby since 2004. At first glance, this year’s running of the Wood appears to feature horses who are a notch below some of the best three-year-olds in other areas of the country (specifically Southern California). Despite this, the importance of Saturday’s race at Aqueduct is enormous, as only one horse, Weyburn, currently has enough qualifying points to make the Kentucky Derby field. With the top-two finishers in the Wood Memorial essentially guaranteeing themselves a spot in the starting gate the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, Saturday’s race becomes a must-see event, even if the field appears to lack star power.

The Most Likely Winner

One of two horses in this race trained by Chad Brown, Risk Taking (#4, 5/2 morning line odds) represents the most likely winner of this year’s Wood Memorial. A son of Medaglia d’Oro, this three-year-old colt will be making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct in early February. While it is fair to question the level of competition he has faced to date, there is no denying that he has relished racing at longer distances, with both of his victories coming at a mile-and-one-eighth, the same distance he will be traveling in Saturday’s race. He may be a bit slower than a few of his competitors when it comes to speed figures, but the foundation he possesses at the nine-furlong distance could prove to be the great equalizer. The pace scenario projects to be on the swifter side, likely playing to Risk Taking’s advantage coming from a mid-pack position. His morning line odds of 5/2 seem to be reasonable, especially with the presence of a horse like Prevalence who is sure to take money shipping in from South Florida. Given the competitiveness of the field assembled, it feels like Risk Taking’s true chances of victory are closer to 3/1 (roughly 24% chance of winning) than 5/2, but that may be splitting hairs.

The Value

Brooklyn Strong (#1, 6/1 ML odds) may be the most fascinating horse entered in Saturday’s race, as he has not been seen since winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct in early December as a two-year-old. Despite the lengthy layoff, it must be acknowledged that the New York-bred colt has run as fast (if not faster) than any of his peers have to date, and he did so as a juvenile. Horses typically will show improvement from their two-year-old season into the early portion of their three-year-old season, simply due to physical maturation. If Brooklyn Strong is fit enough to handle a mile-and-one-eighth off a four-month layoff and he takes any sort of step forward from the form he displayed as a two-year-old, the rest of this field could be in trouble. Odds of 9/2 (roughly 18% chance of victory) or better would represent fair value on Brooklyn Strong in Saturday’s race.

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The Longshot

Dynamic One (#5, 12/1 ML odds) has yet to run a particularly fast race, but visually he looked good breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in early March at the same distance he will be tackling in the Wood. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Dynamic One is a son of Union Rags, winner of the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Based on this fact alone, if the Wood turns into a war of attrition as opposed to a test of brilliance, a horse like Dynamic One could offer some value underneath in exotic wagers like exactas (top two finishers in exact order), trifectas (top three in exact order) or superfectas (top four in exact order) at odds of 15/1 or greater.

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