Two drop out, and rain clouds loom

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Ailments and injury took their toll on Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial. Mother Nature could do further damage still.

Hours before post positions were drawn for the Grade 1 Wood, the connections of Like Now and Showing Up revealed that their horses would not run. Like Now, the upset winner of the Gotham, had a temperature, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Showing Up, undefeated in two starts, has a bruised right front foot, said assistant trainer Robin Smullen.

Those two defections took a good deal of the speed out of the Wood, run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track. Rain was forecast for Friday and into Saturday morning. If Aqueduct's main track is sloppy, Deputy Glitters, another front-running type, could scratch and run in the Blue Grass, trainer Tom Albertrani said.

All of the above could bode well for Keyed Entry, who suffered his first loss in the Gotham when he stalked Like Now but couldn't get by in the stretch. The dilemma confronting trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Edgar Prado is whether to use Keyed Entry's brilliant speed, which carried him to victory in the Hutcheson Stakes at sloppy Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4.

"He can run from off the pace if we need to do that, but maybe letting him be a free-running horse is his best style," Pletcher said Thursday from Keeneland. "We're certainly not going to try to take him off the pace. The most likely scenario is he's going to be on the lead, but if somebody else wants the lead then that's fine, too."

Starting from post 3, Keyed Entry is drawn inside the other remaining speed.

If Keyed Entry doesn't want the lead, then Deputy Glitters would be more than willing to take it, Albertrani said. Deputy Glitters has been forwardly placed in both of his two-turn races, a second-place finish to Bluegrass Cat in the Sam Davis and an upset of that same rival in the Tampa Bay Derby. Deputy Glitters is drawn in post 4.

"The best thing to do is let the horse run his own race where he's going to be comfortable," Albertrani said. "We're not going to try and make any specific type of plans when we're out there. He's got some natural speed anyway, so I imagine he'll be up close."

Albertrani seemed more concerned about the weather than the pace scenario. Noting that Deputy Glitters ran poorly on a sloppy track in last October's Champagne, Albertrani said that should the track come up sloppy Saturday, "we might be out as well."

Bob Baffert shipped Bob and John from California for the Wood, hoping the larger Aqueduct main track would better play into his one-paced colt's style. The winner of the Sham Stakes on Feb. 4, Bob and John had a rough trip when third behind A. P. Warrior and Point Determined in the San Felipe on March 18.

"He's got a big, long, fluid stride, and if it's interrupted it won't be as effective," said Baffert, who won the 2001 Wood with Congaree. "He's a high-cruising-speed dude. The quality's there; like most horses, he's got to have a certain trip."

Greeley's Legacy could offer the best value in the Wood. He finished a close fourth in the Gotham despite being stuck behind horses for a good part of the stretch drive. He's an improving sort who has already won at 1 1/8 miles.

Marco's Tale has won two consecutive races at nine furlongs, and showed the ability to come from off the pace in his last race. He only entered the Wood after the defections of Like Now and Showing Up.

He worked a solid half-mile in 48 seconds over the Belmont training track on Thursday.

Jazil comes off a seventh-place finish in the Fountain of Youth, but was found to have bled in the race. He could be at the mercy of what could be a modest pace.

Completing the field are Scanlon's Song, who beat Marco's Tale the day he won his maiden; Platinum Couple, a New York-bred stakes winner; and Niagara Causeway, who seems better suited for the turf.

The Wood tops an 11-race card that begins at 1 p.m. and includes the Grade 1 Carter Handicap for older sprinters and Grade 3 Bay Shore for 3-year-old sprinters. The Wood and Bay Shore will be broadcast during a one-hour live telecast on ABC Sports beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. A pick four with a guaranteed pool of $500,000 will be offered on races 7-10 and include all three stakes.

The field
Wood Memorial
Purse: $750,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

* All starters carry 123 pounds
* Blinkers on: Niagara Causeway
* Track morning line odds
* Television: Saturday, 4-5 p.m. (Eastern), ABC