Vino Rosso Rebounds With Wood Memorial Victory

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 9th, 2018

On paper, Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial (gr. II) at Aqueduct wasn’t the strongest of the day's three Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races, but the end result was a quality event that that could have a significant impact on the Triple Crown.

The clear favorite in the nine-furlong race was the two-time graded stakes winner Enticed, winner of the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct last time out, but in the end Enticed was overshadowed by Vino Rosso, an up-and-coming son of Curlin that gave trainer Todd Pletcher his fifth win from the last nine editions of the Wood Memorial.

Vino Rosso has long appeared to be a promising colt, but with his strongly classic-oriented pedigree, he has also seemed like the type that will improve as he matures and as race distances get longer. He certainly appears to be living up to those expectations thus far, for although he was beaten in both the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) and the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs this winter, he looked like a completely different horse in the Wood Memorial.

The pace of the race was set by Gotham runner-up Old Time Revival, who sprinted six lengths clear early on while setting fast fractions of :22.96, :46.68, and 1:11.44. Enticed and the recent Santa Anita maiden winner Restoring Hope were content to track the pace in second and third, while Vino Rosso rated in mid-pack, nine lengths from the front.

In his two previous stakes attempts, Vino Rosso had trouble maintaining his speed around the far turn, but he had no such difficulties in the Wood Memorial, smoothly following Enticed around the turn as the latter made his bid to reel in Old Time Revival. Entering the homestretch, Enticed forged to a brief lead, but Vino Rosso was right behind him, and while the two exchanged bumps when Vino Rosso drifted in under pressure, it didn’t appear to affect the order of finish as Vino Rosso was moving clearly best at that point and soon pulled away to win by three lengths. Enticed, in turn, finished 2 ¼ lengths clear of Restoring Hope, with the rest of the field far behind.

Vino Rosso stopped the clock in 1:49.79, a solid time even on a day when Aqueduct was playing quicker than usual, and earned a career-best 102 BRIS speed figure. I’m not sure if Vino Rosso is quite ready to defeat the likes of Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, and Good Magic in the Derby, but win or lose, I believe he could be a major player in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), where his classic-oriented pedigree and grinding style could give him an advantage in the 1 ½-mile classic.

What are your takeaways from the Wood Memorial?