Derby fever lost a bit little bit of its warmth this week at Aqueduct Racetrack after it became announced that an up-and-coming contender, Mind Control, could not run in the end within the Wood Memorial Stakes on Saturday. But in actual racing fashion, every other horse, Haikal, is developing rapid on the outside to try and fill the gap.
Held annually at the Queens song on account that 1960, the Wood Memorial is one of the more essential qualifiers ahead of subsequent month’s Kentucky Derby, the first and maximum well-known leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Racing groups are still jockeying to participate in the derby, held in Louisville, Kentucky, this yr on May 4. While no longer the top graded occasion on the Ozone Park music’s yearly time table, the Wood Memorial does bring its biggest handbag, at $750,000, and its winner gets a actual leg up on competitors hoping to get in at the “Run for the Roses.”
This 12 months, Mind Control, a three-year-old thoroughbred colt, become predicted to be a sturdy competitor in the Wood, probably heading from there to Churchill Downs for his first shot at the Derby. The Kentucky-bred bay debuted closing July, placing 2nd at Delaware Park in Stanton and taking first in his subsequent race on the Grade-1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September. (In horse racing, person events are graded based totally on the overall performance stage of the horses worried, with races drawing the best first-class rated at a 1.)
After a disappointing 7th-area run at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in Kentucky closing November, Mind Control started out the new yr with a primary-region finish in the Jerome Stakes. Held at Aqueduct on January 1, that one-flip, mile-long race incorporates a modest handbag and earns its winners 10 points closer to the Kentucky Derby. Mind Control had commenced with an early lead, and held it all of the manner.
Coming off from that win, Mind Control turned into next set to compete in any other Aqueduct race and Derby qualifier, the Gotham Stakes, on March 9. Worth more in phrases of points and winnings, the race also promised harder opposition, among them Instagrand, an undefeated Californian colt, and Knicks Go, which had taken second region on the Hopeful Stakes.
At the Gotham, Mind Control changed into capable of beat out those touted competitors, sticking to the rail. In an surprising flip although, the colt nevertheless came in 2nd by means of a neck’s duration—to Haikal, who had sprinted up from behind along the out of doors within the very last furlongs for the win.
After Mind Control located second within the Gotham, instructor Gregory Sacco indicated the colt changed into still Woodward-bound. In a New York Racing Association press launch on March 11, Sacco said, “Moving forward, going two turns in the Wood is the next logical spot. He has the tactical velocity to be forwardly positioned and we recognize he doesn’t need the lead. I think he’ll be able to settle and if it’s a paceless race”—one without a clean preferred, regularly favoring a more in-depth—“he could make it. What we found out the day before today is a actual massive plus for Mind Control.”
But just over every week earlier than the Wood Memorial changed into set to start, Sacco introduced that Mind Control will no longer be taking part in the end. The horse’s owners and manager had determined to alternatively put together for the Bay Shore Stakes, a seven-furlong race with a $250,000 purse also scheduled Saturday on the Aqueduct (the racetrack can be website hosting five graded races for the duration of the day). After that, Sacco indicated, Mind Control would aim to compete in the Woody Stephens, a G1 race held at Belmont Park in Elmont on June 8, the same day the Triple Crown Belmont Stakes may be held.
This trajectory takes Mind Control off this year’s Kentucky Derby path. Before Friday’s declaration, he have been quantity 11 at the derby’s leaderboard, and even after the weekend’s races nonetheless might be in 16th or seventeenth function to compete if his humans selected to go into him. Inclusion in the famed race is restricted to the top 20 steeds, primarily based on points earned in different ranked races. Mind Control had picked up 20 factors together with his 2nd-vicinity end in the mile-lengthy Gotham, on top of another 10 points earned through winning the similarly distanced Jerome Stakes on the Aqueduct in January.
Still, Mind Control’s exit from the Wood Memorial is a massive possibility for other contenders this weekend. Placing nicely in the Wood is worth two times as many points as the Gotham, with 100 points going to the winner, forty to 2nd vicinity, 20 to 1/3, and 10 to fourth. However, the stakes may also be lower: Because the horse had been a preceding G1 winner at Saratoga, having Mind Control as a starter in the Wood would have boosted the race’s purse from $750,000 to $1,000,000.


But Wood continues to be set to be an interesting race, with any other Kentucky-bred 3-year-vintage, Gotham winner Haikal, slated to compete. Standing at 50 points and 8th-ranked among contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby, the pony has grew to become heads this past yr by means of finishing his races in a past due dash and prevailing via a neck or a length. Haikal has a strong record—after starting with a second-region end in his debut ultimate November, his ultimate 3 races were first-location wins.
At nine furlongs, the Wood Memorial would be the longest race Haikal may have run in, however that is something teacher Kiarin McLaughlin expects will surmountable.
“We have been hoping he ought to go a mile or in addition, and the tempo was very fast, which helped us,” he stated in a press assertion. “But he’s got a amazing thoughts. He does the entirety proper. We don’t suppose 9 furlongs could be a trouble, either, although we aren’t going to get any such warm pace to run. Hopefully, we won’t must have a warm tempo.”
If the colt runs in the Wood, Haikal would probably be joined by using other Kentucky Derby contenders, including Tacitus, which also has 50 points after triumphing the Tampa Bay Derby closing month. The lineup for this weekend continues to be undetermined, however contenders Outshine (number 22), Tax (number 24), and Not That Brady (wide variety forty three) are all taken into consideration probably starters.