Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. is scheduled to pilot New York Hero, a colt he teamed up with for a neck victory in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) two weeks ago at Turfway Park, in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (gr. I). The Wood, a $750,000 prep for theKentucky Derby will be run at Aqueduct on April 12.
Arroyo is rebounding from some personal matters, and insists he is now investing 100% into his riding.
"Before everything happened I wasn't putting in a 100%; it was just a job," said Arroyo, runner-up in the Eclipse Award voting for leading apprentice in 2000. "I've been putting in 150% since I got back. I want to show everyone I mean it. I've made mistakes, but I'm not looking back. I'm learning from them. I want to take advantage of my youth and talents. I also want to show people that I can ride more than claimers and allowance horses. I can ride in grade I races. I'm thankful for (owner) Ernie (Paragallo) and (trainer) Jen (Pedersen) for giving me this opportunity."
Although he looked beaten passing the eighth pole, New York Hero refused to let Eugene's Third Son by and won the nine-furlong Lane's End by a neck. The victory, by far his most important in five career starts, helped make New York Hero a player in the 3-year-old scene.
"We were going down the backstretch and he didn't want to let anyone by him," Arroyo said. "I was trying to settle him down and he was just pulling me. He'll run all day. He doesn't want to be passed. He's like a car that doesn't run out of gas. The great thing is he's still just starting to learn what the game is about. He's going to run big. Empire Maker was impressive in the Florida Derby, but I don't think there was much behind him."
Wood Memorial Day is the centerpiece of the Aqueduct spring meet. This is not lost on trainer Bob Baffert, who nominated 10 horses amongst the Big A's three April 12 stakes. Of his Wood nominations, Baffert is apparently considering running Senor Swinger in the Wood and During in the day's other 3-year-old race, the $150,000 Bay Shore (gr. III) at seven furlongs.
Baffert nominated three horses to the $350,000 Carter (gr. I) at seven furlongs for older horses. Of the three, NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes listed Congaree as a possible starter
"Whether I bring one or all three horses to New York depends on how they work," Baffert said from California. "They're either going out Sunday or Monday."
Post position draw for the 79th running of the Wood Memorial will be held at 11 a.m., April 10 in Aqueduct's Film Theater.