Trainer Chad Brown holds a strong hand in Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct as we saddle the undefeated Shagaf and the capable Flexibility in in the nine-furlong Kentucky Derby (G1) prep.
The Wood, along with Saturday's Blue Grass (G1) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), offers qualifying points of 100-50-20-10 to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
Owned by Shadwell Stable, Shagaf enters the Wood unbeaten from three starts, including two wins at the Big A. A six-length maiden winner over the main track in November, he next captured a Gulfstream allowance before stretching out two turns in the March 5 Gotham (G3) over the inner track. Overcoming a speed-biased surface, the son of Bernardini was up to win by 1 1/4 lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr., who retains the mount for the Wood.
Flexibility bypassed the Gotham after a dull showing as the odds-on choice in the Withers (G3) January 30. Prior to that, Flexibility had run second to Shadwell's other major Derby contender, Mohaymen, in the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2), before taking the Jerome (G3) by more than four lengths.
Also expected to attract considerable play is the Todd Pletcher-trained Outwork, who met defeat for the first time in last month's Tampa Bay Derby (G2). However, it was a solid effort for the son of Uncle Mo, who set the pace and then gamely went down by a length to stablemate Destin.
Matt King Coal is a major speed threat in the Wood. The Linda Rice charge has won two straight in wire-to-wire finish, the latest being a first-level allowance over the inner track in early March. Other potential contenders in the field of eight are Adventist, third in the Withers and Gotham, and Tales of S'vall, a troubled fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby for Barclay Tagg.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)