OZONE PARK, NY – Donegal Racing’s Mo Donegal, driven perfectly by Joel Rosario, arrived in the final strides to capture Saturday’s 2nd Grade, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino, a nine-stadium test for students of second year at Aqueduct Racetrack. The win gave Hall of Fame coach Todd Pletcher a record seventh win at Wood Memorial, joining fellow Hall of Famer “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.
Mo Donegal won the maximum points allotment from Wood, which provided 100-40-20-10 qualifying points for the top four for the $3 million Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
“I thought he was on the wing,” said Donegal Racing’s Jerry Crawford. “I think the performance he gave today was even better than it looked to the naked eye. I was here all day yesterday and today and not a single horse has closed on the earth in two days and he’s come a long way. So he didn’t just have to be the best today, he had to be the best to win. You never celebrate. in advance, but I was confident for the last 100 meters at least. I like that we won today, not for me, but for my partners.
The previously undefeated early vote, February 3rd Withers winner at the Big A for trainer Chad Brown, broke on alert and took command over a quarter-mile in 23.86 seconds as Rosario saved from the inside post pitch aboard the slow-starting Mo Donegal ahead of only Morello, the 9-5 mutual favorite under Jose Lezcano, who missed the break and trailed.
Early voting dictated the terms on the straight with AP Secret pressing from second and Barese moving comfortably in the clear in third outside Golden Code as the half mile clocked in at 47.75 .
Rosario, always patient, closed in on the frontrunners along the rail although Uncle Mo’s colt had still only beaten two horses as he approached the final bend. Early Voting maintained command throughout the turn, but Mo Donegal pushed forward with great energy inside his rivals.
Once straightened for the stretch run, Mo Donegal easily passed inside AP’s Secret along the rail before heading outside Early Voting and aiming for the leader. Early voting dug valiantly but couldn’t deny Mo Donegal, who scored a neck in a final time of 1:47.96 on the fast main track.
Pletcher said he was concerned about a potential lack of pace after undefeated Grade 3 Gotham winner Morello, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, broke badly.
“I think he had a great run. It didn’t quite go the way we thought it would,” said Pletcher, whose former Wood Memorial winners include Eskendereya. Gemologist Verrazano Work at home Wine Rosso  and Bourbonique . “When Steve’s horse didn’t do well, I was worried the fractions would be a little soft, but he overcame that and came with a big race. I think he got his last quarter mile in 23.69, which is pretty impressive. He was resolved. He kept coming and I was thrilled to see him get there.
Rosario, who won the 2015 Wood Memorial with Frosted, credited the horse with never giving up.
“It was a perfect trip. He kept digging at the end and kept coming,” Rosario said. “It was a good race. I tried to gain ground and it looked like the track was good inside so I tried to stay there as long as possible. He handled everything well.
“I just rode him the way he came out and saw how he handled it and hopefully he comes with a finish,” Rosario added. “He was just galloping and reaching out. When we got home, we just had something left. He left alone. He is a very beautiful horse. »
Brown, whose Zandon won the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on Saturday, was graceful in the loss.
“He had a great race. He was second best today,” Brown said of the early vote. “He had a great race and the winner also had a very good race. Both horses have had good trips, we have just been beaten in the square here. We were second today, but no shame in his effort. I was very proud of the horse.
Brown said he would gather his thoughts before deciding whether or not to persevere in the Kentucky Derby with early voting.
“I have to digest this and watch what is happening everywhere today. Also, look at the horse first and foremost and put everything in place to see if he would have a reasonable chance of winning the race,” Brown said. “From the start we said about this horse and really all of our horses, I’m not interested in going there unless they have a legitimate chance of winning the race. Based on his limited experience and the like, I’m not sure, but let’s see. He has the points, so probably. I don’t want to make a decision before I’ve assessed everything.
There were still 3 1/2 lengths back to Skippylongstocking in third, who was 1 1/2 lengths ahead of fellow AP’s Secret Jr-trainee Saffie Joseph. Barese, Morello, Long Term and Golden Code complete the order of arrival.
A $250,000 buy at Keeneland’s September yearling sale, Mo Donegal graduated on second demand in October at Belmont Park before a close nose score in the 2nd-year Remsen against Zandon.
Mo Donegal, who peaked in temperature and was scratched from the Grade 2 fountain of youth last month at Gulfstream, entered from a closing third in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on February 5 at the Hallandale Beach Oval.
Raised in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, Mo Donegal pocketed $400,000 in victory while improving his record to 5-3-0-2. He returned $6.30 for a $2 winning bet.
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card headlining the $100,000 Top Flight Invitational. The first post is at 1:20 p.m. EST.
America’s Day at the Races will feature daily coverage and analysis of the Spring Meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on FOX Sports Networks. For the full broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official betting platform of Aqueduct Racetrack and the best way to bet on all races in the Winter Meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Mo Donegal (Viola Jasko)