Brooklyn Strong turns in final prep, all systems go for Wood

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

Brooklyn Strong, with Maria Remedio Adorno aboard, turned in strong final work for next weekend’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Nicole Sherman Photo.

By Paul Halloran

There is still a week to go before the Kentucky Derby trail stops in South Ozone Park for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. For trainer Danny Velazquez it might be a very long week – not because he is nervous, because he is excited and can’t wait for April 3.

“We are ready. My confidence level is through the roof,” Velazquez said after New York-bred Brooklyn Strong turned in his final prep for the Wood, a 6-furlong work in 1:13.42 at Parx Racing Saturday morning.

With assistant trainer Maria Remedio up and working in company, Brooklyn Strong broke off from the 5-furlong pole and was timed in :48.79 for a half-mile and 1:01.07 for 5 furlongs, galloping out in 1:26.25, according to Velazquez.

“I didn’t want to break the clock today,” he said. “We put a rabbit horse in there with him and took him back, then he took over.”

The work was the fifth for the 3-year-old son of Wicked Strong who suffered an illness after winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Dec. 5. Last week, he fired a bullet, going 5 furlongs in :59.71.

The Wood offers Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. Brooklyn Strong picked up 10 points in the Remsen and, heading into Saturday, was in a 10-way tie for the 21st in the qualifying standings. A win or second in the Wood would earn a Derby berth.

Danny Velazquez hopes Brooklyn Strong comes out on top in next week’s Wood Memorial on the way to the Kentucky Derby. Nicole Sherman Photo.

“Now we just do everything we can to keep him happy, healthy and sound,” said Velazquez, a 37-year-old Mid-Atlantic-based trainer who finds himself on the cusp of leading a horse over on the first Saturday in May. “I feel pressure because people are telling me I should be feeling it, but really I am just so confident in my horse.”

Velazquez secured the services of Manny Franco for the Wood, after making a pitch to Franco’s agent, Angel Cordero Jr.

“I called Cordero and said, ‘Angel, I’m telling you I am going to come 1,000-percent ready. I promise you.’ He called me back a few hours later and told me we had Manny,” said Velazquez, who will give a leg up to the jockey who won the 2020 Belmont Stakes and Travers with New York-bred Tiz the Law.

Velazquez said he will walk Brooklyn Strong Sunday and Monday, then jog him except for a likely gallop Thursday. The horse will ship from his Parx base next Saturday morning.

“Now it’s just sharpening,” said Velazquez, who would have preferred more than five works, especially before a graded stakes, but feels that his horse has made more than made up for it.

“I feel this horse has gotten fitter quicker,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent how I normally do it, but, am I confident he is ready now? Absolutely. My team has done a great job. They’re all excited.”

Brooklyn Strong broke his maiden for a tag at Delaware Park and ran third and first in New York-bred stakes, before winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Dec. 5. His 4-3-0-1 record accounted for $195,000 in earnings. He was bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and her husband, Dr. Michael Gallivan, at Shamrock Hill Farm in Fort Edward. They sold him as a weanling for $30,000 and, after he was an RNA at two yearling sales in 2019, Mark Schwartz bought him for $5,000 at last year’s OBS Spring 2-year-old sale.

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