Paraneck Stable's New York Hero, scheduled to take on current Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker in Saturday's grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial at nine furlongs, breezed five furlongs in :59 3/5 over Aqueduct's "fast" main track Monday morning. NYRA clockers caught the grade II Lane's End winner in splits of :23 2/5, :35 2/5 and :47 2/5. New York Hero, under exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez, galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. "We're ready," trainer Jen Pedersen said. "He was within himself. Rudy never asked him for anything. He's really picked up his training since the Lane's End. I couldn't be happier."New York Hero should be a forward factor from the opening bell in the 79th Wood Memorial. A three-time winner from five starts, he has won races going gate-to-wire, but also proved he doesn't need the lead to win."It always helps having a horse that can give you some options, especially when you're in big races," Pedersen said. "We'll talk about our game plan Saturday morning."Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. will have the mount on New York Hero in the Wood. In another Wood workout, Sackatoga's Stable's Funny Cide, who might go off a distant second
choice behind Empire Maker in the Wood wagering, breezed a half mile at Palm Meadows Training Center in :48. "I had him gallop out (five furlongs) in 1:01," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "Everything went great. It was nice and quite down here. He's fresh."Tagg said Funny Cide would board a van bound for New York Monday afternoon.The Wood obtained another possible starter Monday after trainer Lisa Lewis watched Kissin Saint breeze four furlongs over Belmont's "fast" training track in :49. Kissin Saint, who was ridden by jockey Richard Migliore in the work, was also being considered for Pimlico's April 19th Federico Tesio. "He came off the track prancing and feeling good," Lewis said. "He did it nicely. Richie and I were very happy."Ten days ago, Kissin Saint determinedly took a money allowance going nine furlongs on the main track here. The colt had a lot to overcome that afternoon considering he hadn't raced in nearly seven weeks after suffering a leg infection, had never raced farther than a mile and seventy yards and was only sporting one published workout during March. Kissin Saint will have a lot to overcome in the Wood as well.Aside from the competition getting notably steeper in the Wood, Kissin Saint will be returning to action with 15 days between starts. Lewis pointed out that Sunday Break, third to Buddha in last year's Wood, ran in the race on just 16 days rest. Prior to the Wood, Sunday Break had won a money allowance race nearly identical to the one Kissin Saint took on March
28.Another possible Wood starter, Judson Streicher's Atfirst Blush, breezed a half mile over Belmont's main track Monday in :49 2/5. Trainer Sal Russo is still unsure as to whether he will saddle the colt in the Wood."The work went great," Russo said. "We'll decide later in the week if we're running. This is the best he's ever been."On March 16, Atfirst Blush notched his second victory in his sixth career start when taking a second-level allowance on the inner track. Fund of Funds, second that day, returned to finish a big second in Saturday's Illinois Derby.Atfirst Blush, a colt by Rubiano, spent the early winter months at Gulfstream Park, where he winless in a pair of starts and was never in the hunt for a win."His daddy hated that track and I think this horse hated it too," Russo said. "He's just wasn't happy down there. He started coughing after his second start. I've noticed a complete change since we got him back to New York."