Shagaf puts undefeated record on the line in Wood Memorial
The 1 1/8-mile heat, one lap around the Big A's main oval, is one of five graded stakes on the 12-race program. Qualifying points of 100-50-20-10 toward Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility will be dished out to the top four Wood finishers.
A son of Bernardini trained by Chad Brown, Shagaf drew post 1 for the Wood. A six-length debut winner over this track at a mile in November, he spent the first part of winter in Florida, where he landed a Gulfstream allowance, also at one mile, by two lengths. Shipped north in early March for the Gotham (G3) on the inner track, Shagaf again prevailed as the favorite, rallying from a couple lengths off the pace on a speed-favoring track to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Unlike Mohaymen, who was beaten back by a West Coast invader, Shagaf's main rivals are all East Coast-based runners. One, Flexibility, is also a resident of Brown's Belmont Park barn. Second to Mohaymen in both the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2) last fall, Flexibility improved greatly in that rival's absence in early January when taking the Jerome (G3) by more than four lengths. However, the Bluegrass Cat colt was a dull fourth as the 1-2 choice in the Withers (G3) later that month.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Wood three times but none yet for one of his main clients, Mike Repole. That could change if Outwork continues to improve. A son of Repole's juvenile champion Uncle Mo, Outwork won on debut at Keeneland going 4 1/2 furlongs last April, then reappeared at Tampa Bay Downs in February to take a six-furlong allowance. Last time, he led all but stablemate Destin at the finish of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) after setting the pace.
In addition to Outwork, other likely pace players in the Wood are Matt King Coal, who has won two straight for Linda Rice and makes his stakes debut, and Tale of S'avall, who showed some early foot in one-turn races last fall but was bumped at the start of his season debut, the Tampa Bay Derby, and showed little.
The field is rounded out by Adventist, third in the Withers and Gotham, and West Coast shippers Dalmore, a last-out maiden winner, and Trojan Nation, who is still a maiden after five starts.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)