The 79th running of Aqueduct's grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on Saturday, April 12, 2003 will once again be the first leg of the Big 3 Pick 3. The Big 3 Pick 3 is a $1 national wager in which fans try to pick the winner of three important prep races for 3-year-olds planning on running in the upcoming Visa Triple Crown races.The field for the Wood Memorial, the eighth race of a live nine-race card at the Big A, will go to post at 4:15 p.m., Eastern. The second leg of the Big 3 Pick 3, the Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland, will be run at 5:15 p.m. and the series will conclude with the Arkansas Derby from Oaklawn Park at 5:45 p.m. ESPN will show the Wood Memorial live during its one-hour telecast that begins at 3:30 p.m. NBC will show a taped relay of the Wood Memorial, along with live coverage of the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby.All three legs of the Big 3 Pick 3 are at nine furlongs and are serious tune-up races for horses with Triple Crown aspirations. The 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky. on Saturday May 3rd, is the first leg of the Triple Crown. The second leg is the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, May 17th and the final leg is the "Test of the Champion," the 135th running of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y. on Saturday, June 7th."We are thrilled, as always, to be part of the Big 3 Pick 3," said NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader. "The history of the Big 3 Pick 3 has been to provide excitement and anticipation for three-year-olds that will go on to the Triple Crown races and beyond. After a seemingly endless winter, racing fans have something to really look forward to this spring and we are especially proud of the role the Wood Memorial has in moving three-year-olds forward in their careers. The Big 3 Pick 3 has also proven to be a terrific value play, with the lowest payoff the $30.80 return in 1997."Last year, Buddha was a head victor over Medaglia d'Oro in the Wood Memorial. Injury ended Buddha's career, but Medaglia d'Oro went on to a big three-year-old campaign. He joined Arts and Letters (1969), Willow Hour (1981), Carr de Naskra (1984) and Thunder Rumble (1992) as the only horses to win both the Jim Dandy and the Travers at Saratoga. He was fourth in the Kentucky Derby, runner-up in the Belmont Stakes and was second to 43-1 Volponi in the Breeders' Cup Classic.Among those likely for the Wood Memorial are Empire Maker, runaway winner of last Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby, and Alysweep, who won Aqueduct's Gotham last Sunday.Big 3 Pick 3 History, with year, handle, payoff and results (Wood Memorial/Blue Grass/Arkansas Derby):
2002 -- $991,679; $128.00; Buddha/Harlan's Holiday/Private Emblem
2001 -- $1,166,177; $121.00; Congaree/Milenium Wind/Balto Star
2000 -- $1,223,167; $249.50; Fusaichi Pegasus /High Yield /Graeme Hall
1999 -- $1,042,447; $3,594.00; Adonis /Menifee/Valhol
1998 -- $789,214; $450.50; Coronado's Quest/Halory Hunter/Victory Gallop
1997 -- $824,912; $30.80; Captain Bodgit/Pulpit/Crypto StarHorses That Have Swept The Gotham/Wood Memorial : Native Dancer (1953); Flag Raiser (1965); Dike (1969); Good Behaving (1971); Rube the Great (1974, won a division of both races); Air Forbes Won (1982); Eternal Prince (1985); Private Terms (1988); Easy Goer (1989); Thirty Six Red (1990); Devil His Due (1992, dead-heated Lure in the Gotham); Irgun (1994); and Talkin Man (1995).
Horses That Swept The Wood Memorial And Kentucky Derby: Gallant Fox, 1930 **; Twenty Grand, 1931; Johnstown, 1939; Count Fleet, 1943 **; Hoop Jr., 1945 *; Assault, 1946 **; Foolish Pleasure, 1975; Bold Forbes, 1976; Seattle Slew, 1977 **; Pleasant Colony, 1981; and Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000.* Hoop Jr. won a division of the Wood Memorial. Jeep won the other division.
** Triple Crown winner.
NOTE: In 1968, Wood Memorial winner Dancer's Image won the Kentucky Derby, but was disqualified.