NEW YORK (AP) So far, Shagaf has been a picture of perfection on the race track.
The biggest test for the 3-year-old bay colt comes Saturday, when he takes on eight rivals in the $1 million Wood Memorial, New York’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby.
Trained by Chad Brown, Gotham Stakes winner Shagaf was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite and drew the inside No. 1 post for the 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct Racetrack. No worries for Brown, who also sends out 8-1 shot Flexibility.
“Shagaf is doing well. His works have been good and so was his Gotham,” said Brown, a rising star in the training ranks, after Shagaf went for a morning gallop at Belmont’s training track Wednesday. “He’s certainly being doing everything right. He’s won all three of his races.
“We’ll be adding distance (in the Wood) and we’re looking for him to finish off the race strong. We’ll see the best of him the further he runs.”
Shagaf will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s second-leading rider in earnings.
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Outwork, second in the Tampa Bay Derby after two wins to open his career, is the 5-2 second choice and drew the outside No. 8 post. Matt King Coal is next at 3-1, leaving from the No. 6 gate.
The Wood carries 170 Derby qualifying points, with 100 to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. The Derby is limited to 20 starters. If more are entered, the field is determined by points. Earning points is not a concern for Shagaf, who has 50 for last month’s Gotham win.
All others need Derby points.
Outwork, trained by Todd Pletcher, has 20 points but still might need a top-four finish to make the Derby. Flexibility has 15 points and Adventist, trained by Leah Gyarmati, has 12.
Matt King Coal is making his stakes debut for trainer Linda Rice. The colt came off a four-month layoff from a fever and won a first-level allowance race last month.
Brown hopes Flexibility will rebound from his fourth-place finish in the Gotham. As a 2-year-old, the colt finished second twice to top Derby contender Mohaymen, and Flexibility won the Jerome in his first race this year.
“I think he’s coming into the Wood in great shape,” Brown said. “Hopefully, he can use this race to secure some additional (Derby) points.”
The field, from the rail out, is Shagaf (2-1), Adventist (10-1), Trojan Nation (30-1), Tale of S’avall (20-1), Flexibility (8-1), Matt King Coal (3-1), Dalmore (12-1) and Outwork (5-2).
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