Veteran rider Corey Nakatani, seen here in 2013, rides Wood Memorial contender Uncle Sigh this Saturday at New York's Aqueduct racetrack. Credit: Getty Images
Samraat and Uncle Sigh are set to go in a final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but they certainly did not scare off the competition.
Eleven 3-year-olds will vie for the 100 Kentucky Derby points awarded to the winner of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, which assures the horse a spot in the Derby field. Second place will receive 40 points, third place gets 20 points and fourth place gets 10 points.
The Wood Memorial goes as Race 10 on the 12-race card. Post time is 5:40 p.m. and the race can be seen on NBCSN.
Samraat needs no introduction at Aqueduct. The colt is undefeated in five starts, with four of those wins posted at “The Big A.” In his last two starts — the Withers Stakes and the Gotham Stakes — Samraat held off a stubborn challenge from main rival Uncle Sigh. Samraat was installed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. Jose Ortiz will ride from post eight.
Uncle Sigh, who has not been able to beat Samraat in two tries, will try again on Saturday and once again receive the services of veteran rider Corey Nakatani. Uncle Sigh was in a tough spot between Samraat and In Trouble in the Gotham Stakes, yet stayed on bravely, only losing by a neck. Listed at 5-1 on the morning line, Uncle Sigh will break from post 10.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Social Inclusion, who is stepping up off an allowance company win at Gulfstream in which he broke the track record for a mile and one-sixteenth. When asked how his horse handled galloping over Aqueduct’s main track, jockey Luis Contreras told the Daily Racing Form’s Dave Grening, "I think he's happier over this track."
Social Inclusion will have to overcome the significant handicap of drawing the far outside post of 11.
Another contender is Californian-invader Kristo. He was last seen finishing third in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 8.
Kristo’s trainer John Sadler is optimistic about his horse’s chances.
"In his last race, we changed his running style and took him back [over] a speed-favoring track and that probably was a mistake," Sadler told the NYRA press office, "He ran much better in the [Grade 3] Sham before that and we think he deserves one more chance."
Martin Garcia will fly in from California to ride the 6-1 shot from post six.
Rounding out the horses with single-digit odds is Harpoon, who disappointed last time in the Gotham Stakes, finishing fifth. The always-dangerous duo of trainer Todd Pletcher and rider John Velazquez team up on the 8-1 shot.
Another interesting local horse is Noble Moon. He was last seen winning the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 4, but was then diagnosed with a small injury in his right hind foot. Noble Moon has reportedly been training well, but the layoff will be tough to overcome. Believers are getting 12-1 morning-line odds. Aqueduct’s leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. is in the irons, and Noble Moon breaks from post three.
Rounding out the field are Kid Cruz (post 1, 20-1), winner of Laurel’s Private Terms Stakes on March 8; Wicked Strong (post 2, 15-1), most recently fourth in an allowance race at Gulfstream; Los Borrachos (post 5, 30-1), who broke his maiden at Aqueduct on March 8; Schivarelli (post 7, 15-1), who steps up in class after two runaway wins at Aqueduct over lesser; and Effinex (post 9, 50-1) who jumps up in class after three races in restricted company.