Lord Miles ($120.50) survives bumpy Wood Memorial, clinches Kentucky Derby berth


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – On a day full of surprises at Aqueduct, Lord Miles – at 59-1 the third-longest price in the field of 12 – pulled off the biggest and arguably most important one, outlasting Hit Show and Dreamlike to the wire to win the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial by a nose and earn his way into the Kentucky Derby.

Hit Show, the 8-5 favorite, finished second by a head over Dreamlike, an 0 for 2 maiden entering the race. Hit Show, who won the Grade 3 Withers here in February, should also have enough points (60) to get into the Kentucky Derby field. Dreamlike, a maiden coming in, earned only 30 points for finishing third, which will likely not be enough to qualify.

Lord Miles, who was widest of all in the lane under Paco Lopez, had to withstand a stewards’ inquiry and an objection from Manny Franco, the jockey of Hit Show, as there was some bumping among the top three finishers nearing the wire. After a review, the stewards let the result stand.

Lopez said it was Dreamlike, under Jose Ortiz, who came out and caused the bumping.

“There was no excuse at all to claim foul on me,” Lopez said. “I know the guy’s got to take a shot – and all the time I get in trouble – this time I had nothing to do with it. My horse was fighting for the line for sure.”

Hit Show, who was able to get a stalking good position early on despite breaking from post 12, wound up in between Lord Miles and Dreamlike in the stretch. Franco felt Lopez not only bumped him late, but also did at the five-sixteenths pole.

“I was like a ping-pong ball in between there,” Franco said. “The horse outside was hitting my horse and I hit the horse inside, too, when he hit me. [Lopez] was all over the pace. At the five-sixteenths pole, I was behind [Dreamlike] and he just went into me.”

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. felt Lord Miles had run spotty when finishing third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park and fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby, and didn’t run very well at all when sixth in the Holy Bull.

Joseph said Lord Miles had a tendency to get position, come out of the bridle and then come again. Saturday, Lord Miles was into the race early, sitting fourth outside of Dreamlike while Artic Arrogance and Uncle Jake dueled through a half-mile in 49.00 seconds.

At the 4 1/2-furlong pole Lord Miles appeared to be losing position, but he seemed revitalized when Hit Show came to his inside. As Uncle Jake dropped out of it, Arctic Arrogance and Dreamlike were the targets for Lord Miles and Hit Show to catch approaching the quarter pole.

At the eighth pole they were four across the track and at the sixteenth pole only Arctic Arrogance couldn’t keep up. There was brushing among the top three in the last 70 yards, with all three fighting on to the wire and Lord Miles narrowly prevailing.

Though the top three wound up bumping in the stretch, they did avoid some serious bumping entering the first turn, where Slip Mahoney, General Banker and Mr. Swagger took the worst of it.

Dreamlike finished 5 1/4 lengths in front of Arctic Arrogance, who was a head better than Classic Catch, the only horse in the field to make up any significant ground. Slip Mahoney was sixth, followed by Shadow Dragon, Knox, Crupi, General Banker, Mr. Swagger and Uncle Jake. Clear the Air scratched.

Joseph, who watched the race from Florida, said at the three-eighths pole he would have been happy to finish second.

“Then he got there at the wire, you’re all ecstatic but I knew there would be an inquiry,” Joseph said. “Then you want to see the head-on; when I saw the head-on I felt good, but you’re dealing with opinion and when you’re dealing with opinion you never want to be in that position.”

Luckily for Joseph and owner Peter Vegso, the stewards’ opinion was for no change.

Lord Miles, a son of Curlin, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.17 and returned $120.50. In earlier stakes on Saturday’s card, Promiseher America ($55) won the Grade 3 Gazelle as the longest price in a six-horse field and Doppeglanger ($37.80) won the Grade 1 Carter as the longest shot in that six-horse field.

For Joseph, Lord Miles’ victory validated what he thought of the horse since he won at first asking last Nov. 19 at Gulfstream.

“After he broke his maiden we thought he was a Derby horse,” Joseph said. “This was our last chance to show it and he showed it at the most important time.”