Friday, April 8, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Wood Memorial (G1)

Looking for Clarity in the Wood Memorial 

By: Tony Bada Bing 

The long, winding and sometimes muddled road to the Kentucky Derby looks for further clarity on Saturday, hoping to give us a clear second choice behind Nyquist. Saturday’s $1,000,000 Wood Memorial has the promise of announcing the likely runner up for the Run for the Roses. Alas, that is not the main reason I write and maybe you read and then lay down a wager. Sure nailing a Derby contender atop a $3,000 trifecta payoff is doubly sweet. I would trade that for a $10,000 trifecta without the favorite, Derby contender, finishing fourth or worse. But, hey that’s just me.

Let’s get down to it, since we all only a limited handicapping time:

#1 Shagaf – whether you see it translated from Arabic as love, passion, a gap or rift, I’m getting a sense of Derby desire here. I’d expect odds of even money or less by post time for this three-for-three winner, as he moves from Gotham champ to the Wood’s horse to beat. He gets the inside post in the eight-horse field and will likely hold the rail, tracking in second, third or fourth. The fear is if a four-wide duel ensues at the top of the stretch and then jockey, Irad Ortiz will have to wait, wait, wait for an opening to run through. Legit.

#2 Adventist – my Gotham pick did what he always does, contend for a piece of the pie. Too bad this ended up being a non-threatening third place finish at around 5-1. Seems a cut below the top choice and a few others. Strictly an underneath play.

#3 Trojan Nation – I’m not a doctor and haven’t ever played one on TV, but let me give you a little advice: This virgin to winning has yet to cross the finish line first or get to home plate, if you prefer, so I’d take a prophylactic approach here. Play him if you must, but realize the return is likely to be a let down in which no cigarette or nap is needed afterward.

#4 Tale of S’avall – only a maiden win and two, far-back fifth place finishes in stakes company does not bode well for this son of Wood winner, Tale of Ekati. A cutback in distance in next try is the likely outcome here.

#5 Flexibility – if you like the top choice, you have to give trainer, Chad Brown’s second Wood entry, a look. He’s battle-tested, finished second to last week’s Florida Derby second-betting choice Mohaymen twice and has a win on Aqueduct’s outer course. He’s also trained with Shagaf on multiple occasions running just as fast the likely favorite. So, why not throw him mix and even on top of exotics in case Brown’s top horse falters?

#6 Matt King Coal – has more than just a cool name going for him. He’s fast. He has run well on a wet track – likely for Saturday – in a high level maiden race.  He has the aggressive, Jose Ortiz in the saddle, who will likely take them around the track in front for the first three-quarters of a mile. If he’s loose and cutting 24-second splits, the “winner likelihood meter” goes up dramatically for the stretch run. Dangerous.

#7 Dalmore – a California invader that broke his maiden in his last in his seventh try. Overmatched, likely, but in what looks like it will be a strung out finish, this son of Colonel John might just canter home in second or third.

#8 Outwork – appears to be the only threat to contest Matt King Coal for the lead. Going for the powerful trio of Repole-Pletcher-Velazquez, he hasn’t run a bad race in three tries with a game, second place finish in the Tampa Derby in his latest effort. He’s a threat to track, pounce and open up daylight running down the stretch. If he inherits the lead willingly…

With a $100 to bet you have to decide is Shagaf worth playing as the chalk or not. If you really like him, but don’t see value in the Wood, maybe single him in a Pick or just watch the race with no money involved. If you think he’s beatable, put him underneath in a few trifecta plays and off the board all together in case he stumbles. If he’s off the board your return still won’t be a windfall because there’s at least two others that will hover around 5-1 and are next likely to finish first.

Option A: Single #1 Shagaf in Pick 4

Option B: Bet $100 to win #1 Shagaf, if even money is OK with you

Option C: Play two trifecta wheels against the favorite. One including him underneath and another smaller bet in case he’s off-the-board

5-8/All/All - $84 for a $1 base
5-6-8/5-6-8/2,5,6,7,8 for $18 for a $1 base

So I’m $2 over. Good luck in however you wager!

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