Lord Miles Stuns Field in Wood Memorial Upset
Favored Hit Show was narrowly-beaten runner-up.Lord Miles (outside) upsets the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack
Coglianese Photos/Susie RaisherThe $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack was the third and final 200-point Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying race on a busy April 8 afternoon and in terms of a wild, unpredictable finish, the best was saved for last.
After favorites prevailed in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), the Wood tossed a Rich Strike -like shocker into the Triple Crown picture as Vegso Racing Stables’ 59-1 longshot Lord Miles survived a frantic, bumpy, three-horse battle to the wire and an inquiry to prevail by a nose over favored Hit Show in the Wood and assure himself of a spot in the field for the May 6 opening leg of the Triple Crown for 3-year-olds.Lord Miles, b, 3/c
Curlin — Lady Esme, by Majestic WarriorOwner: Vegso Racing Stable
Breeder: Vegso Racing Stable (KY)
Trainer: Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.Pedigree Notes
Curlin stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms for $225,000 (2023).
“You dream and sometimes it doesn’t happen. We dreamed about getting this horse in the Kentucky Derby and it didn’t look good for a while but now our dreams have become reality,” winning trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “The owner (Peter Vegso) wants to go to the Kentucky Derby so, he’ll leave for Florida (April 9) and if he checks out well, we’re going to the Derby.”
Since no one among the field of 12 in the Wood was among the Top 20 in qualifying points, the Wood, with its 100-40-30-20-10 points to the top five horses, figured to have a pronounced impact on the leaderboard. Few expected the penultimate prep race of the year to be quite so pronounced as Lord Miles, a son of Curlin , was unplaced in two graded stakes tries and had just one win in four career starts, all in Florida.
“We believed in the horse. We had good success in the Wood, maybe not winning, but running good at crazy odds,” said Joseph, whose colt picked up 100 points to safely land in the Top 20. “Early in my career I was scared to take a chance. But I learned from (owner) John Fanelli who pushed me to run Math Wizard in the (2019) Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and he won (at 31-1 odds). I learned I have nothing to lose by taking chances and a lot to gain.”
Running the homebred son of the Majestic Warrior mare Lady Esme in the Wood surely qualified as he shipped up from Florida after running fifth behind Blue Grass winner Tapit Trice in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), which came on the heels of a sixth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Joseph’s Gulfstream Park home base.
“I thought he could be a Derby horse after his first race, and then he was a close third in the Mucho Macho Man (Stakes) and the Holy Bull was a disaster,” Joseph said. “He never runs in the bridle and I thought he’d be last in the Tampa Bay Derby as I watched the race, but when he finished fifth we decided to try the Wood.”
The Wood wound up catapulting two horses into the Top 20 as runner-up Hit Show, making his first start since winning the Feb. 11 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, picked up 40 points to give him a safe 60 points.
“He should get a lot out of the race,” trainer Brad Cox said about Gary and Mary West’s homebred son of Candy Ride . “He’ll ship to Churchill Downs (April 10) and we’ll talk with the Wests. If he comes out of the race OK, and the Wests want to go in the Derby, we’ll run.”
The Wood produced more than its fair share of drama on the first turn as well as the stretch.
There was a big traffic jam on the first turn when several horses converged in a mad dash for running room and at least seven of the 12 starters, including Lord Miles, had a note in their chart that they were bumped in the early stages.Lord Miles wins the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct
While Slip Mahoney (6th) and General Banker (10th) took the worse of the bumping and checking, when the field reached the backstretch, it was the New York-bred Arctic Arrogance who led by a half length after a opening quarter mile in :24.88 while being ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., who was subbing for Jose Lezcano who was taken to Jamaica Hospital with a broken bone in his right hand after a spill in the second race of the day.
Down the backstretch, the Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable maiden Dreamlike moved into second with Lord Miles and the 8-5 favorite Hit Show just behind them in fourth and fifth, respectively, after six furlongs in 1:12.88.
Turning for home Lord Miles ($120.50) and Hit Show, who broke from post 12, made their moves for the lead while Arctic Arrogance and Dreamlike battled inside of them. After Arctic Arrogance gave way to finish fourth, the adventure started.
The trio of Lord Miles, Hit Show, and Dreamlike came together at the eighth pole and engaged in a furious battle with some bumping and leaning by each of the trio. At the wire, Lord Miles, on the outside, put his nose down ahead of Hit Show, who was sandwiched between the winner and Dreamlike.
The stewards reviewed the tapes and let the result stand.
“It felt like pinball in there,” said Manny Franco, who rode Hit Show.
Final time was 1:51.17.
“At the quarter pole I thought we could hit the board. At the eighth pole I thought we had a chance to win and we got there,” Joseph said. “Looking at the head-on I thought we were OK, but you are dealing with opinion, not facts. You’re in a tricky spot and until that official sign goes up you are not feeling comfortable. It took a while, so it was scary.”
Cox said the stewards made the right call.
“It was bumpy. I watched the head-on and I thought they made the right call. There wasn’t enough to make a change,” Cox said. “I thought he’d get up in the last 20 yards, but he didn’t get his head down. He ran good despite a bit of tough trip. I’m glad he showed up and ran a good rest.”
The Todd Pletcher-trained Dreamlike, a son of Gun Runner , was a head back in third and picked up 30 qualifying points but that was not enough to crack the leaderboard.
Arctic Arrogance was fourth missed the Derby cut with 36 points (20 Saturday) while Classic Catch was fifth and received 10 points.
Lord Miles is the third of four foals from Lady Esme and the only one who has raced. The most recent foal is a Connect yearling filly.