How to Bet the 2019 Wood Memorial

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 4th, 2019

There are plenty of promising and accomplished runners to consider in Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct, 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race that has attracted eleven entrants.

I’ve taken a look at the five morning line favorites and have divided them into two categories—“For,” containing the horses that I like best, and “Against,” featuring the short-priced runners that I’m tempted to play against either in whole or in part.


#10 Outshine: Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez have teamed up to win the Wood Memorial four times since 2010, and they figure to have another strong chance with Outshine. Victorious in two of his first three starts, Outshine finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs last month, but arguably ran a better race than the winner, making an early move into a hot pace before staying on gamely down the homestretch. Given a better setup in the Wood Memorial, I expect to see Outshine take another step forward. Florida shippers have a strong record in this race.

#2 Tacitus: This well-bred son of Tapit out of the champion mare Close Hatches broke his maiden at Aqueduct last year and recently returned from a four-month layoff to win the Tampa Bay Derby with a sharp rally from off the pace. I think he benefited from the quick early pace, but at the same time, Tacitus strikes me as an improving colt with a bright future. For what it’s worth, his improvement in the Tampa Bay Derby coincided with his first run on Lasix.


#1 Tax: I felt that the Beyer and BRIS speed figures for his hard-fought triumph in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) came back a bit too high, and watching the next four finishers behind Tax come back to disappoint in their next starts has done nothing to change my opinion. That doesn’t mean that Tax isn’t a talented colt—I liked how he fought through on the inside to win the Withers, and he’s already run well twice at this 1 1/8-mile distance—but I think he’ll be a shorter price than he should be in the Wood Memorial.

#4 Haikal: He’s a neck away from being undefeated in four starts, but Haikal has never run around two turns and is unlikely to receive as good a pace setup as he did in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) last month, in which a complete pace collapse allowed Haikal to gain five lengths in the final furlong and win going away.

#3 Hoffa’s Union: This son of Union Rags dominated his debut at Laurel Park by 15 ½ lengths and could be a major wildcard in the Wood Memorial. He’s earned solid speed figures, but I’m hesitant to back him since his impressive victory came with an easy lead. He’ll be facing more early speed on Saturday and is also changing barns.

The Plays

I’ll emphasize Outshine and Tacitus (particularly the former) while tossing Haikal entirely and restricting use of Tax and Hoffa’s Union to the bottom of a trifecta:

$12 to win on #10 Outshine $5 exacta: 2,10 with 2,10 ($10) $1 trifecta: 10 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,5,6 ($8)

Good luck!