Edited from a release
A day to celebrate horse racing in New York state, as well as a salute to the economic and cultural diversity of the borough of Queens headline the 79th running of The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Race Track, considered one of the premier tune-ups for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Visa Triple Crown. The highlight of the April 12 event is the expected running of one of the sport's top 3-year-old colts, and leading contender for the Derby, Empire Maker.
Empire Maker, trained by Bobby Frankel, and the runaway winner of the grade I Florida Derby, is Frankel's best hope to win the Kentucky Derby in years. Although he is one of Thoroughbred racing's top trainers, Frankel has never won a Triple Crown Race. Empire Maker's appearance in the Wood, combined with a total purse of over $1 million for the day are expected to draw tens of thousands of fans to the Big A.
The Wood Memorial, a nine-furlong grade I stakes race, will feature a $750,000 purse. It will be the eighth race on the 10-race card, scheduled to go to post at 4:15 p.m. E.S.P.N. will provide live television coverage of the race beginning at 3:30 p.m.
The New York Racing Association and the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation, will present "A Salute to Queens," a celebration of the many diverse businesses, arts organizations and products manufactured in Queens.
Participating organizations include the New York Hall of Science, The Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC), Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music, Queens County Overall Development Corp. and the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways. Participants will receive complimentary clubhouse admission for the organizations and their neighborhood associates and will host exhibits at Aqueduct.
Visitors to the Big A will be able to step inside Starlab, a portable planetarium that offers guests a unique stargazing experience, courtesy of the New York Hall of Science. Other organizations will present demonstrations or performances, including live band music, providing a festive atmosphere for the day. Helen Marshall, Queens Borough President, will be in the Winner's Circle for the trophy presentation of the "Salute to Queens Race," which will go to post at 3:15 p.m.
The Salute to Queens celebration is the first celebration to honor the borough of Queens and its surrounding area at the Big A, which hopes to attract a whole new generation of fans to one of New York's historic tracks by combining horse racing with community events.
The Wood Memorial was inaugurated in 1925 in memory of Eugene D. Wood, one of the founders of the old Jamaica Racetrack and a former president there. Wood was a bon vivant and a politician familiar to the legislative halls of Albany. The race was originally called the Wood Stakes, but was later renamed the Wood Memorial.
Several Thoroughbreds have swept to victory in the "Run for the Roses" after capturing the Wood Memorial, the most recent being Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. Monarchos, winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby, finished second in that year's running of the Wood.
Gates open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 12, for the 79th running of the Wood Memorial. Clubhouse admission is $3, grandstand admission is $1. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Post time for the first race is 1 p.m.