Wood Memorial (GII)

Aqueduct • New York, NY, USA 100-50-25-15-10
April 6, 2024

Wood Memorial Stakes Race History 

Inaugurated in 1925, the Wood Memorial has long been an important proving ground for Kentucky Derby contenders. Originally held over 1 mile and 70 yards (and later 1 1/16 miles) at Jamaica Race Course, the Wood Memorial is named in memory of the late Eugene D. Wood, a New York politician who served as Jamaica’s president for over two decades. 

The Wood Memorial wasted no time cementing Wood’s name in the annals of racing history. During an unforgettable golden age spanning 1930 through 1951, the Wood Memorial produced no fewer than nine Kentucky Derby winners. Triple Crown champions Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), Count Fleet (1943), and Assault (1946) were the stars of the show, but Twenty Ground (1931), Johnstown (1939), Hoop Jr. (1945), Middgleground (1950), and Count Turf (1951) also enhanced the Wood Memorial’s early legacy.

The Wood Memorial underwent its first dry spell between 1952 and 1972, during which only one Kentucky Derby winner (Carry Back, 1961) used the race as a prep for his signature victory under the Twin Spires. It was a time of upheaval for the Wood Memorial; the race was lengthened from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles in 1952, and its location shifted from Jamaica to Aqueduct in 1960. 

However, a fiery chestnut soon set the race back on track. Although Secretariat was beaten to third place in the 1973 Wood Memorial, the legendary superhorse quickly rebounded with a record-shattering sweep of the Triple Crown. During the ensuing decade, Foolish Pleasure (1975), Bold Forbes (1976), Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1977), famous filly Genuine Risk (1980), and Pleasant Colony (1981) all followed Secretariat’s path to Derby glory, with all but Genuine Risk winning both the Wood Memorial and the “Run for the Roses.” 

This flurry of activity preceded another lengthy dry spell. More than a dozen years passed before Wood Memorial runner-up Go for Gin sprung an upset in the 1994 Kentucky Derby. The early 2000s witnessed a temporary return to form as the Wood Memorial produced three Derby winners in four years: Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), Monarchos (2001), and Funny Cide (2003). But the remainder of the decade was quiet, and in the 2010s not a single Wood Memorial starter visited the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. 

The COVID-19 outbreak prompted the cancelation of the 2020 Wood Memorial, starting the new decade on a down note. But as a final-tier Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race awarding 170 qualification points (100-50-25-15-10) to the top four finishers, it’s likely just a matter of time before the Wood Memorial bounces back to its glory day.


By J. Keeler Johnson

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