Arrow-right Camera

Wood finishes as gem

Gemologist, right, ridden by Javier Castellano, edges Alpha to win the Wood Memorial by a neck on Saturday at New York. (Associated Press)
Gemologist, right, ridden by Javier Castellano, edges Alpha to win the Wood Memorial by a neck on Saturday at New York. (Associated Press)

Gemologist won the $1 million Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct on Saturday in New York, holding off Alpha by a neck to improve to 5 for 5.

The latest victory makes the colt trained by Todd Pletcher one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Gemologist will enjoy an important advantage over many rivals in the Derby, having already won twice at Churchill Downs. He captured an allowance race and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes there to close out his 2-year-old season.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, Gemologist ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.96. The $600,000 first prize in the Wood assures Gemologist a starting spot in the Derby, where the 20 entrants are determined by graded stakes earnings.

Coming into the Wood, Gemologist was light on graded earnings, having banked only $103,855. He also was largely untested.

That all changed in the Wood.

Gemologist ranged boldly into contention with a three-wide move on the final turn. He took charge at the top of the stretch and appeared on his way to a commanding win until Alpha shook loose. Trapped in traffic on the first turn, Alpha took up the chase and made it a two-horse battle to the wire. Alpha had the momentum but Gemologist had more in reserve, striding out strongly to preserve the victory in the last major 3-year-old stakes in New York before the Derby.

“When I asked him, he took off again,” Castellano said. “I like that. I was concerned when Alpha was closing because my horse was just looking around at the crowd.

The $200,000 for second also cinched a Derby spot for Alpha.

Santa Anita Derby

I’ll Have Another edged 9-10 favorite Creative Cause by a nose in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at Arcadia, Calif., returning from a two-month layoff to make himself one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby.

Sent off at 4-1 odds, I’ll Have Another ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.88 under Mario Gutierrez in the West’s leading prep for the Kentucky Derby.

I’ll Have Another paid $10.20, $4.20 and $3.60. Creative Cause returned $2.60 and $2.40, while Blueskiesnrainbows paid $9.60 to show.

The top three horses came charging down the stretch together in the most exciting of the day’s three Derby preps.

Blueskiesnrainbows was a half-length back in third for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was trying to win his record seventh Santa Anita Derby.

Illinois Derby

Long-shot Done Talking won the $500,000 Illinois Derby, beating Morgan’s Guerrilla by three-quarters of a length at Hawthorne Race Course at Cicero, Ill.

Ridden by Sheldon Russell, Done Talking ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.88 on the fast track from the No. 13 post position. The 55th running of the Illinois Derby featured a record 14-horse field.

Ashland Stakes

Karlovy Vary took an early lead and beat favorite Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

The 3-year-old, sired by Dynaformer, is headed to Churchill Downs to continue training for the biggest race for fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, on May 4 after a change in strategy has netted her two straight victories.