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Outwork to Display Speed in Wood Memorial Stakes

Outwork to Display Speed in Wood Memorial Stakes– Two main speed horses are present in the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack: Outwork and Matt King Coal. Outwork drew the outside post position eight. If the lightly-raced colt can break cleanly and not become caught wide on the first turn, his position sitting off Matt King Coal will be perfect.

Outwork Horse Kentucky Derby

The connections for Outwork (pictured above at Palm Beach Downs), Todd Pletcher and Repole Stable, are the same humans behind Outwork’s sire Uncle Mo. John Velazquez rides again n Saturday’s Wood Memorial, and he rode Uncle Mo during the young stallion’s career.
Photo: Dave Norton

The connections for Outwork, Todd Pletcher and Repole Stable, are the same humans behind Outwork’s sire Uncle Mo. John Velazquez rides again, and he rode Uncle Mo during the young stallion’s career. Hopefully, Outwork does not repeat Uncle Mo’s finish in the 2011 Wood Memorial, when the precocious star faded late and ran third.

Outwork won early as a two-year-old horse last year. In fact, he won in April at Keeneland over a decent group which included Finnegan. A couple of sharp handicappers considered Outwork a lock to win the race, because they reasoned the connections wanted to promote Uncle Mo’s ability to sire winners immediately.

Pletcher stated though in a press release that Outwork’s initial win came unexpectedly.

“I thought he was surprisingly precocious last year when he won the 4 ½-furlong race,” Pletcher said. “He got some time off after that and everything’s gone really well this winter.”

Outwork went on a long vacation and never appeared until February at Tampa Bay Downs. He won convincingly by four lengths in a six-furlong optional claimer. The long layoff negated the average-looking speed figure earned.

After the return, Pletcher tested Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII), where he stepped up his game by finishing second to the more experienced stablemate Destin. Pletcher seemed pleased despite losing.

“He stepped up off one six-furlong race and ran a really key race in the Tampa Derby and we hope that that race and the works he’s had since then will move him forward,” he said.

Considering Outwork lays somewhere near the bottom of the Top 20 point standings for the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher will likely tune him up for a sharp performance in order to make sure Outwork makes the Derby field.

Beyond Outwork, the field for the Wood Memorial appears wide open.

Shagaf, from the rail, will attempt to remain undefeated in four starts for trainer Chad Brown. He won the Gotham Stakes (GIII) a month ago after saving ground early and switching out for the stretch drive. Runner-up Laoban received a dream trip running on an uncontested lead with a clear speed bias driving him.

About a month earlier at Gulfstream Park, Shagaf also won an optional claimer while enduring a wide trip. Visually, the performance was not anything spectacular as he seemed to labor a bit (possibly because of the wide trip).

Next to Shagaf in the gate, Adventist attempts to improve off his third-place Gotham finish. He rallied widest of all in the stretch run against the bias and only lost by two lengths.

From the fourth post position, Tale of S’avall tries to bounce back from his odd fifth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby. Despite showing speed in his first two career starts, rider Joe Brave laid the horse eight lengths back.

Flexibility, Shagaf’s stablemate, attempts to rebound as well from running fourth in the Withers Stakes (GIII) in late January. When Flexibility began to move outside in the stretch, he bumped hard with Adventist.

The last contender to discuss, Matt King Coal, will need to prove his ability to withstand greater pace pressure if Outwork breaks well. Horses dueling from the inside tend to be more stressed than the outside horse.

Speed works as an advantage on dirt, whether a bias exists or not. Even so, Matt King Coal feels less trustworthy because he will establish his position on the rail with Outwork breathing down his neck. Outwork will fire the first shot at Matt King Coal and open up in the stretch. Unlike his sire Uncle Mo, Outwork should hold on.

Wood Memorial Stakes 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 10 5:30 PM ET
1 Shagaf 2-1 Ortiz, Jr./Brown
2 Adventist 10-1 Carmouche/Gyarmati
3 Trojan Nation 30-1 Gryder/Gallagher
4 Tale of S’avall 20-1 Velasquez/Tagg
5 Flexibility 8-1 Franco/Brown
6 Matt King Coal 3-1 Ortiz/Rice
7 Dalmore 12-1 Alvarado/Desormeaux
8 Outwork 5-2 Velazquez/Pletcher