by Pat Mckenna
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced today a bonus program for potential starters in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on Saturday, April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack that could increase the total purse to $1 million.
If any horse in the field registers a Grade 1 or Group 1 victory prior to running in the 94th edition of the Wood Memorial, NYRA will increase the total purse by $250,000 if the qualifying horse is declared an official starter.
Should a Grade or Group 1 winner become an official starter and trigger the increase, the Wood Memorial winner would earn $590,000 with the runner-up garnering $190,000 and third-place collecting $90,000.
"The goal of this bonus program, which can raise the Wood Memorial purse to $1 million, is to bring the most talented 3-year-olds in the country to the Wood on April 7," said NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay. "Racing fans can look forward to a tremendous card on Wood Day that includes prestigious races such as the Carter Handicap, Gazelle, Bay Shore and Excelsior."
Contested at 1 1/8 miles on the Big A's main track, the Wood Memorial is named in honor of Eugene D. Wood, a New York State politician and horse racing enthusiast who had been a founder and past president of the old Jamaica Racetrack where the race was run until 1960. On five occasions, the Wood has been run in two divisions, resulting in two winners in 1944, 1945, 1947, 1974, and 1983.
Recent winners of the Wood Memorial include Irish War Cry last year, Outwork in 2016 and Frosted in 2015, who ran second to American Pharoah in his Triple Crown-winning effort in that year's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes before winning the 2016 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and the Grade 1 Whitney in his 4-year-old season.
As part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series, the Wood Memorial is worth 100 qualifying points to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth, bolstering the bids of the top finishers to earn sports in the starting gate for the 144th running of the Grade 1, $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 5.