Gemologist Holds Off Alpha in Thrilling Wood
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Gemologist fights off Alpha to win the Wood Memorial.

WinStar Farm’s Gemologist   will head to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) undefeated and one of the favorites after he held off a surging Alpha   to win the $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO) in thrilling fashion April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Taking over from pacesetter The Lumber Guy   turning for home under Javier Castellano, Gemologist carried a comfortable lead into the stretch, but was taken on by Alpha and Ramon Dominguez nearing the sixteenth-pole. Those two dueled in deep stretch but the son of Tiznow   stubbornly held on by a long neck for his fifth victory in as many starts.

Gemologist needed a big effort in the Wood to punch his ticket to the May 5 Kentucky Derby, as he entered the race with just over $100,000 in graded earnings. The Todd Pletcher trainee was up to the task, as he overcame a testy start to post his second graded stakes victory.

The bay colt was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust – 2, and is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard. A $310,000 Keeneland November breeding stock sale weanling, he was consigned by Lane’s End, agent.

Godolphin Racing’s Alpha, who also overcame trouble early in the race, will be heading to the Derby as well after his gutsy effort. Teeth of the Dog, making his stakes debut, finished third at 53-1 under Joe Bravo.

The final time for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track was 1:50.96.

Gemologist broke alertly from post 6 and had a brief lead going into the first turn, but a speedy The Lumber Guy sprinted to the front. Gemologist was carried out wide on the first turn during a tussle for position by a wall of horses. But he recovered well and took up a stalking position.

The Lumber Guy led the way for three-quarters of a mile, posting quick fractions of :23.04, :47.57, and 1:12.57. My Adonis pressed the pace, followed by Gemologist and Casual Trick. Alpha was never far back, but was forced to check early in the backstretch.

Turning for home three-wide, Gemologist finally put away the pacesetter, with My Adonis in between horses but struggling to keep up. Gemologist had a 1 1/2-length lead at the eighth-pole despite drifting in, but Alpha was just getting revved up for his charge at the new leader. When he nearly drew even in mid-stretch it looked as though Alpha was going to go right on by, but Gemologist fought on gamely from the inside for his courageous victory.

“It worked out great for me," Castellano said. "He settled perfectly. I wanted a target. I didn’t want to be on the lead. I had a great trip. Turning for home, he was looking around at horses. When I asked him, he took off again. I like that. I was concerned (when I saw Alpha closing) because my horse was still looking around at the crowd. When he saw the horse coming, he took off again.”

The winner upped his earnings to $784,855.

“When he came back, he wasn’t blowing like an exhausted horse," Pletcher said. "I think his fitness level is pretty good. I think he can (get better). He’s still waiting a little bit. Javier said he was still looking around a little bit. He’s still learning.” 
 
“Being by a dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, one of those at Churchill Downs, and with this horse being 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs, I think he’d have as good a chance as anybody (in the Kentucky Derby).”

Sent off as the 6-5 choice, Gemologist paid $4.40, $3, and $2.40. Alpha returned $3.10 and $2.80 as the second choice, and completed a $12.20 exacta (6-1). The trifecta (6-1-4) was worth $187.50.

Tiger Walk finished fourth followed by The Lumber Guy, Street Life, My Adonis, and Casual Trick

Of Alpha's effort, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said: “I (thought we were going to get him). Ramon said he thought maybe the winner was waiting for us a little bit. We had a true test and we passed our test, we just didn’t win."

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