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In what must be considered the most surprising result of the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep season, Todd Pletcher’s Bourbonic pulled off a shocking 72-1 upset in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday afternoon. Not only did Pletcher train the winner, who paid the most to win in Wood Memorial history ($146.50 returned on a $2 win wager), but he also trained the 15-1 runner-up, Dynamic One. The performances delivered by these two three-year-olds on Saturday dramatically altered the Kentucky Derby points standings, as they guaranteed themselves a spot in the starting gate the first Saturday in May after previously having earned a grand total of zero points combined prior to the Wood. Not only did they ensure their spots in the gate, but they pushed other horses who were on the bubble outside the top-20, including the likes of Proxy and Dream Shake. While Saturday’s race provided a great deal of drama and excitement, it seems extremely unlikely either Bourbonic or Dynamic One will be viewed as legitimate threats to win the Kentucky Derby in just over four weeks at Churchill Downs.
Observations following the 2021 Wood Memorial:
- The 89 Beyer Speed Figure earned by Bourbonic in Saturday’s Wood Memorial represents one of the slowest winning speed figures earned in a Derby prep in 2021. While both Bourbonic and Dynamic One (who also earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure) continue to improve, they are considerably slower than horses who would be considered contenders in the Kentucky Derby. When constructing wagers for the Kentucky Derby, each of these horses may be best viewed as “underneath” types, potentially finishing in third or fourth at massive odds to help trifecta and superfecta payouts.
- The Chad Brown duo of Risk Taking and Crowded Trade disappointed given the fact they were the first and second choices in the wagering, with Crowded Trade performing the better of the two. All things considered, Crowded Trade did not disgrace himself, finishing third in his first try going two-turns and at the mile-and-one-eighth distance. All indications are he will be pointed toward shorter distances in the future, which is likely the correct move. As for Risk Taking, it is hard not to be discouraged by the non-effort, as he had shown an affinity for the Aqueduct main track and the additional distance in the past. Perhaps he found the tougher competition too difficult to handle or he needed a race off the bench (last race had been in early February); whatever the case may be, it is hard to be encouraged by what we saw from Risk Taking on Saturday.
- Given the flow of the race, the performance from Weyburn was relatively solid despite regressing ten points on the Beyer Speed Figure scale from his prior effort. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Pioneerof the Nile was the only horse close to the pace to finish somewhat well in the end, leading one to wonder if the fourth-place finish should be upgraded slightly. Jerkens and Weyburn’s connections had been on record saying the Kentucky Derby was never truly a target, and that the Belmont Stakes on June 5 is the main objective. Given his early speed and pedigree that seemingly suggests he will run all day, the Belmont would appear to make sense.
- Brooklyn Strong saved ground throughout while positioned midpack before finishing evenly, running like a horse who needed a race. Despite earning a speed figure as a two-year-old that put him squarely in the mix, the four-month layoff appears to have had an impact on his performance, as he ran like a horse who needed fitness and conditioning. Wherever his next start is, a forward move should be expected.
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- Prevalence was a bit of a “wise guy” horse shipping in from South Florida, but there were too many hurdles for him to overcome. In his first start away from Gulfstream Park, he was asked to go two-turns and navigate a mile-and-one-eighth for the first time, as well. While no one will ever be writing about how historically strong the 2021 Wood Memorial was, it was still a lot to ask of Prevalence in the grand scheme of things. The Godolphin homebred has a great deal of potential and should not have this poor performance held against him going forward.
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