NEW YORK — Outwork lived up to his name with a narrow win in the $1 million Wood Memorial at cold and rainy Aqueduct on Saturday, earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby in four weeks.
The 3-year-old colt, runnerup in the Tampa Bay Derby last month, won by a head over 81-1 long shot Trojan Nation and earned 100 Derby qualifying points to give the team of owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher an up-and-coming contender for the Run for the Roses.
"It was a great effort," Pletcher said. On to the Derby? "I think there's a chance," he said, smiling.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Outwork raced second behind Matt King Coal for most of the 1⅛-mile race, then took over in the stretch and held off a strong challenge along the rail from Trojan Nation, who came into the race without a win but earned 40 Derby points to all but qualify.
Shagaf, the 9-5 favorite in the field of eight, had a poor start from the rail and finished fifth.
Winning time for the race over a muddy track was 1:52.92 — the slowest in the history of the race first run in 1925.
Outwork, a son of Uncle Mo, returned $6.80, $4.80 and $3.90. The colt finished second to stablemate Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in his previous start on March 12 and goes into the Derby with three wins in four races. Outwork has 120 Derby points.
SANTA ANITA DERBY: Exaggerator made an impressive move on a sloppy track in the upper stretch and went on to win the $1 million race in Arcadia, Calif., by 6¼ lengths, beating 7-5 favorite Mor Spirit in their final showdown before the Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Exaggerator ran 1⅛ miles in 1:49.66 and paid $8.80, $3.60 and $2.80 at 3-1 odds. Trained by Desormeaux's older brother Keith, the colt was next-to-last early on in the eight-horse field. Trained by Bob Baffert, Mor Spirit returned $2.80 and $2.40. Exaggerator earned 100 points to move into third place in qualifying for the Derby field, which has a 20-horse limit.
BLUE GRASS STAKES: Brody's Cause stormed to the front entering the stretch and rolled to a 1¾-length win in the $1 million race at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., claiming a spot in the Derby. The colt stalked the leaders coming into the final turn before surging ahead for his second win in three Keeneland starts. With Luis Saez aboard, Brody's Cause ran 1⅛ miles in 1:50.20 and paid $10.40, $5 and $3.40. The Dale Romans-trained winner earned 100 points toward the Derby. My Man Sam edged Cherry Wine by a head for second. Brody's Cause was the 2-1 wagering favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby last month but got bumped at the start and finished seventh.