That is why when the Wood Memorial is run for the 80th time on Saturday April 10th, it will again capture the attention of the world's Thoroughbred racing fans.
Once again, the Wood Memorial will be the first leg of the Big 3 Pick 3, a $1 minimum national wager in which fans try to pick the winner of three important prep races for three-year-olds planning on running in the upcoming Visa Triple Crown races.
The field for the Wood Memorial, the eighth race of a live 10-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 replay of the Wood Memorial, along with live coverage of the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby during its 90-minute telecast that begins at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Check back the day before the races for a link to free past performances.
All three legs of the Big 3 Pick 3 are at nine furlongs and are important tests for horses with Triple Crown aspirations. The 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky. on Saturday May 1st, 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 15th and the final leg is the "Test of the Champion," the 136th running of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y. on Saturday, June 5th.
"Naturally, we are excited to be the architect of the Big 3 Pick 3, and particularly proud of the growing importance of Aqueduct's premier race, the Wood Memorial," said NYRA Senior Vice President Bill Nader. "The Big 3 Pick 3 is a terrific value play and is the only Pick 3 wager in history to record wagering pools in excess of $1 million."
Last year, Empire Maker defeated New York-bred Funny Cide by a half-length to win the Wood Memorial, but Funny Cide came back to make history by winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness en route to the three-year-old championship. Empire Maker won the Belmont Stakes to spoil Funny Cide's bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner.
In 2002, 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.
Monarchos rebounded from his second-place finish to Congaree in the 2001 Wood Memorial to win the Kentucky Derby, and in 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus became the 11th horse to win both the Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby.
For each of its seven years, the Big 3 Pick 3 payoff returned more than the parlay and has routinely generated the highest Pick 3 handle figures in North America. The 2003 handle of $1,010,482 was the fourth highest in history
BIG 3 PICK 3 HISTORY
|YEAR||HANDLE||PAYOFF||RESULT (Wood Memorial/Blue Grass/Arkansas.Derby)|
|2003||$1,010,482||$365.00||Empire Maker/Peace Rules/Sir Cherokee|
|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|
|1998||$789,214||$450.50||Coronado's Quest/Halory Hunter/Victory Gallop|
|1997||$824,912||$30.80||Captain Bodgit/Pulpit/Crypto Star|