Daredevil favored in Wood Memorial despite distance questions

 

Daredevil hasn’t won a race in nearly six months, yet he’s the horse to beat in the $1 million Wood Memorial on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 3-year-old colt trained by Todd Pletcher was made the 9-5 favorite in a seven-horse field for New York’s major prep before the Kentucky Derby on May 2. He drew the No. 6 post and will be ridden by Javier Castellano.

El Kabeir, meanwhile, was the 3-1 third choice on the morning line set by NYRA oddsmaker Eric Donovan, behind 5-2 second pick Frosted. El Kabeir comes into the 1 1/8-mile Wood with Derby prep wins in the Jerome and the Gotham, and a runner-up finish in the Withers.

In his only race this year, Daredevil was second in the seven-furlong Swale at Gulfstream Park following a 2-year-old season in which he won his first race, then took the Champagne on Oct. 4 before finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

”Tough call,” Donovan said. ”Outside his Breeders’ Cup, his efforts have been very strong. Distance is probably the biggest question, but it’s Pletcher and Castellano.”

Pletcher is looking forward to the race.

”I think he’s very talented,” Pletcher said of Daredevil, one of his half-dozen Derby hopefuls. ”He’s also fast, and part of his success stretching out is going to depend on how he settles the first part (of the race). So we’re excited about the opportunity.”

Pletcher had also hoped to saddle Withers winner Far From Over in the Wood, but the horse suffered a minor leg injury and is sidelined indefinitely. No worries. The trainer’s other Derby contenders are Carpe Diem, Itsaknockout, Madefromlucky, Materiality and Stanford.

El Kabeir, who will be ridden by C.C. Lopez, has done everything asked of him by trainer John Terranova.

”He hasn’t had a hiccup so far,” Terranova said, ”and he just keeps finding more every time and coming back off these races really well.”

From the rail out, the field is: Tiz Shea D (8-1), Toasting Master (20-1), Lieutenant Colonel (15-1), Frosted (5-2), El Kabeir (3-1), Daredevil (9-5) and Tencendur (12-1).

In the two other Derby preps this weekend, unbeaten Dortmund is the 3-5 favorite in a six-horse field for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby and Carpe Diem is the even-money choice in an eight-horse field for the Blue Grass at Keeneland.

The winners of each of the prep races earn 100 Derby qualifying points, with 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.

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