Enticed and Old Time Revival ran one-two, respectively, in the March 10 Gotham Stakes (G3) and on Saturday the duo will face off yet again in the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct.
The 1 1/8-mile contest is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races, and wraps up New York’s series of points contests leading to the Run for the Roses on May 5 at Churchill Downs. The Wood Memorial is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the respective top four finishers.
Enticed retains the services of Junior Alvarado, who piloted the Godolphin homebred to victory in the Gotham as well as last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) under the Twin Spires. The pair also teamed for a third-place run in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park a month prior.
"He's doing very well," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of Enticed. "He's training great. We're happy with him and we're there trying to win an important race. Even if it doesn't have Grade 1 status, we feel like it is a Grade 1. It's a huge race for a horse in his career, especially for a stallion prospect. Only one horse wins the Derby and 19 are hot and dirty, so this is a very important race on Saturday.”
Old Time Revival ran at Laurel Park exclusively until showing up for the Gotham last out, where he led early under returning jockey Jeremy Rose only to be caught by Enticed in the stretch. The dark bay son of Brethren broke his maiden by 4 3/4 lengths in December and two races later missed by only a neck when attempting to wire the February 17 Miracle Wood Stakes. He’ll stretch out past a mile for the first time here.
"Everything's doing good, so we're excited to make the trip," trainer Kenneth Decker said. "He seems to be getting better every time we go. It seems like the further we go, the better he does. So we'll see on Saturday, but right now, everything looks good."
Firenze Fire will attempt to return to the form that saw him capture the Jerome Stakes in mid-January at Aqueduct for trainer Jason Servis. The Poseidon’s Warrior colt was second next out in the Withers Stakes (G3) but could only manage a fourth-placing in the Gotham most recently. Manual Franco was aboard for both the Jerome and Gotham, and keeps the mount on Saturday.
Vino Rosso broke his maiden at Aqueduct then shipped to Florida and made his next three starts at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher. The chestnut son of Curlin finished third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his past pair, and keeps regular rider John Velazquez holding the reins as he seeks a first stakes win in this spot.
"We've been looking forward to the Wood for a while," Pletcher said. "We're excited to get him back to Aqueduct. It's where he broke his maiden and stretching out to a mile and an eighth is going to allow him to show his true ability.
"He's a horse that's trained very well all winter and in company with some very good horses that have gone on to be successful. We thought we had seen some improvement with him training (in blinkers) and in the Tampa Bay Derby, Johnny (Velazquez) felt like he was more focused in the earlier part of the race, so we talked about it and after discussing it with Johnny, we decided to leave them on (in the Wood Memorial).”
Trainer Bob Baffert shipped maiden winner Restoring Hope to New York to make his stakes bow on Saturday in the Wood Memorial. The Giant’s Causeway sophomore missed in his debut at Los Alamitos by only a nose, then was third at Santa Anita Park just 13 days later on December 30. Baffert took blinkers off the colt and he broke his maiden at that latter venue on February 2 by 3 1/2 lengths. Fellow Southern Californian Flavien Prat has the call.
"We took the blinkers off and he came back and ran well (last out)," Baffert said. "Now, he's training like a good horse, so that's why he's there. Hopefully he ships well and handles everything well. It's new surroundings and you never know how they're going to act with everything and you still need racing luck and all, but I feel confident that he's going to be very competitive.
“He's very fast. He has a lot of natural speed. He's got to be up on the pace so we're going to see what happens. He's a gorgeous horse and he's built for it. He's a big, strong horse.
"We've always been very high on him and he worked really well the other day so I thought we'd take a shot. He's doing really well. We're like everybody else, we're trying to see if he fits. The Wood is a very important race."
King Zachary also faces winners for the first time in the Wood Memorial. The Dale Romans pupil finished third at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park in his first two tries while going seven furlongs, then broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths on March 18 at the Florida track while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. Regular Robby Albarado stays aboard.
Rounding out the Wood Memorial field are Evaluator, a nose winner of the restricted Sleepy Hollow Stakes two back; recent maiden scorer Heartfullofstars; and Catch Twenty Two, a maiden claiming victor who clipped heels and lost his rider in an allowance last out.