July 14, 2024

Early Voting, Morello, Mo Donegal set for eight-horse Wood Memorial; Venti Valentine tops Gazelle

Early Voting wins the Withers Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

A pair of unbeaten stakes winners, Early Voting and Morello, and Remsen (G2) hero Mo Donegal highlight a compelling eight-horse field in Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct. Three-year-old fillies will also be in the spotlight in the $250,000 Gazelle (G3), a major qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.

Wood Memorial (G2) – Race 8 (4:45 p.m. ET)

Worth 170 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial has three runners with serious Kentucky Derby aspirations.

Early Voting will show speed following a 4 1/2-length romp in the Feb. 5 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct, improving to 2-for-2 for Chad Brown, but the Gun Runner colt will need to improve his Brisnet Speed ratings after registering a 91 figure last time. Jose Ortiz guides the frontrunner.

Mo Donegal, a nose scorer over Zandon in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen at Aquduct last fall, will try to rebound from a belated third in the March 5 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park. By Uncle Mo, the Todd Pletcher-trained late runner will add the services of Joel Rosario.

Early Voting and Mo Donegal need points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, but Morello is safely in the field after picking up 50 points for a 4 1/2-length victory in the March 5 Gotham (G3) over a one-turn mile. The New York-bred son of Classic Empire has won all three starts by open lengths for Steve Asmussen, but Morello has never been two turns. The Gotham represents an important test, and Jose Lezcano retains the mount on the chestnut colt.

Barese, 3-for-3 following a pair of New York-bred stakes wins, will try open company and two turns for Mike Maker. A. P.’s Secret, a sharp Gulfstream allowance scorer two back, has shipped in for Saffie Joseph Jr. after a troubled seventh in the 5 Fountain of Youth (G2). Gotham (G3) third Golden Code, last-out Gulfstream allowance winner Skippylongstocking, and maiden Long Term, who appears likely to add pace for stablemate Mo Donegal, round out the contestants.

Gazelle (G2) – Race 10 (5:55 p.m. ET)

Venti Valentine, a smashing seven-length winner when opening her three-year-old season in the March 5 Busher S. at Aqueduct, will be the one to beat among eight fillies in the Gazelle. A neck second in the Demoiselle (G2) at Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile trip last fall, the New York-bred daughter of Firing Line is trained by Jorge Abreu and Manny Franco will be up.

Busher runner-up Shotgun Hottie, winner of the Ruthless S. at Aqueduct two back, will be back to face the favorite. Trevor McCarthy rides for Bill Morey. Classy Edition merits respect following a second to Kathleen O. in the March 5 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream, and Rosario takes the call. Nostalgic, a 6 3/4-length winner over Gulfstream Park allowance foes in her last outing, is entered for Godolphin and Bill Mott.

Other runners include Morning Matcha, runner-up in the Busanda at Aqueduct and most recently a 6 3/4-length winner of the March 8 Main Line S. at Parx, and Forward Gal (G2) fifth Greatitude.