Exciting colt Eskendereya (3c Giant’s Causeway x Aldebran Light, by Seattle Slew) took another step on the trail to the Kentucky Derby with a scintillating win in the Group One Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on the weekend.
A dominant winner of the Group Two Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 20, the Todd Pletcher trained colt stepped it up another notch in the Wood Memorial, bolting away down the stretch to win the 1 1/8 mile contest by nine and three-quarter lengths.
"The horse is amazing,'' said trainer Todd Pletcher, who appears to have an outstanding prospect to secure his first Derby win.
"The further he goes the stronger he gets. The horse has natural stamina. It would be big to win the Derby. We’ll try to make that happen.”
Eskendereya settled off the pace for Johhny Velaazquez and chimed in with a big run from the top of the straight, coasting to the line as he pleased.
"He allowed me to get him back off the slow pace, and once I did that I got into the clear on the backstretch and he settled really, really well until (Awesome Act) came to him on the outside on the backstretch," Velazquez said.
"I gave him his head a little bit then, and he settled. Once we got to three-eighths pole he got on the bridle pretty strong, and when I gave him his head he just went up and up and up from the horses. He was just galloping. It was a good feeling.”
Eskendereya is now considered the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby, his rate of improvement and ability to adapt to varying race conditions stamping him a rising star.
“He’s not at the mercy of anyone’s pace. He sets his own pace. We just wanted him in his rhythm,” said Pletcher.
“I said to (owner Ahmed) Zayat (last summer at Saratoga), this horse literally improves every week. A lot of times they improve to a certain point and then level off. He keeps doing it."
A $250,000 Keeneland purchase for the Zayat Stables, Eskendereya was thought good enough to run in the Group One Breeders Cup Juvenile last year, but disappointed connections with a ninth place finish.
He has since bounced back in top form this year, his overall record now four wins and a second from six starts with prizemoney of $725,700.
Eskendereya is a half-brother to Group One Newmarket Middle Park Stakes winner Balmont being from the Seattle Slew mare Aldebaran Light.