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Apr 06, 2012

Alpha and Gemologist headline Wood Memorial


Ozone Park, NY (Sports Network) - Undefeated Gemologist and Withers Stakes winner Alpha lead a field of eight for Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The 1 1/8-mile stakes comes four weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Gemologist in the colt's first stakes try this year. The colt, owned by WinStar Farm, has drawn post six with Javier Castellano riding and is the 8-5 program favorite.

Perfect in four career starts, Gemologist has total earnings of $184,855, including his only race this year, an allowance event last month at Gulfstream Park.

"We came in with high hopes this winter, as he was undefeated as a two-year- old with two wins at Churchill Downs," said Pletcher, who saddled 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver. "Because his return was delayed, he might have been a little under the radar for some, but certainly not for us. From a conditioning standpoint, I thought he got exactly what he needed (out of the comeback race). Hopefully, he continues moving forwardly."

The colt ended his 2011 season with a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November.

"After the Kentucky Jockey Club, we decided to plan on a similar program to what we did with Super Saver, which was two prep races prior to the Kentucky Derby," said Pletcher, who won the 2010 Wood with Eskendereya. "With another good performance, some good racing luck, and some graded earnings, he could be in a good spot."

Alpha, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez who's coming back after suffering a separated collarbone in a spill at Aqueduct on Sunday, March 18. Set as the 5-2 second pick, Alpha will start from the inside post.

"We couldn't be happier with him, he's such a professional," said Art Magnuson, assistant to McLaughlin. "Distance-wise, the longer the better for him. He's got kind of a medium build, and in the two two-turn races over the inner track he ran well. I think he'll appreciate the outer track."

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Alpha has five career starts with three wins for $300,000. He was the 4-5 favorite when winning the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct three months ago and took the Withers as the 3-10 top choice.

The colt, whose sire Bernardini won the Preakness in 2006, was second to Union Rags in the Champagne Stakes last October and 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Gotham Stakes runner-up My Adonis will break from post three with jockey Elvis Trujillo. The colt is trained by Kelly Breen for George and Lori Hall who had Ruler On Ice win the 2011 Belmont Stakes.

"He'll tell us his story in the Wood. If he jumps up and runs a big race, I wouldn't be surprised," Breen said.

My Adonis, 8-1 in the morning-line, has been shuttling between New York and Florida this year. He was third in Gulfstream's Holy Bull Stakes to Algorithms before coming to Aqueduct for the Gotham. The colt has won two of eight starts with four seconds for $301,000.

Here is the complete field for the Wood in post order: Alpha, Ramon Dominguez, 5-2; Casual Trick, Corey Nakatani, 20-1; My Adonis, Elvis Trujillo, 8-1; Teeth of the Dog, Joe Bravo, 15-1; Street Life, Junior Alvarado, 4-1; Gemologist, Javier Castellano, 8-5; Tiger Walk, John Velazquez, 15-1 and The Lumber Guy, Cornelio Velasquez, 8-1.

All starters will carry 123 pounds.

It's been 12 years since a Wood winner captured the Run for the Roses. Fusaichi Pegasus was the last to turn the double in 2000.

The Wood Memorial has a post-time Saturday of 5:15 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on NBC.

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