NEW YORK - I Want Revenge made a remarkable recovery from a poor start, fought his way through a wall of horses in the stretch and won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday.
The stirring victory solidified I Want Revenge's status as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby in four weeks.
When the starting gate opened, I Want Revenge was last to leave and fell way behind his seven rivals. But under a cool ride from Joe Talamo, the dark bay colt made a stirring run down the stretch, finding a clear path between horses at the eighth pole and pulling away for his second straight stakes win.
I Want Revenge finished 1½ lengths ahead of West Side Bernie, with Just a Coincidence third in the 1 1-8-mile Wood, New York's major prep for the Derby on May 2.
Atomic Rain was fourth, followed by Imperial Council, Cellar Dweller, Lord Justice and Lime Rickey. The winning time for the race was 1:49.49 over the Big A's main track.
I Want Revenge, now 3-of-7 for owner David Lanzman and new partner IEAH Stables, won the Gotham Stakes by 8½ lengths last month. IEAH owned Big Brown, last year's Derby and Preakness winner.
"When you miss the break, then get bottled up behind horses and overcome that, it's pretty special," winning trainer Jeff Mullins said.
I Want Revenge earned $450,000 to boost his graded stakes earnings to $774,000.
The 3-year-old I Want Revenge, a son of Stephen Got Even, had won just once in his first six starts in California, all on synthetic surfaces. The decision was made to head East for a race over a dirt track the Derby is on the dirt and I Want Revenge flourished.
Mullins said plans call for the colt to be shipped to Churchill Downs on Monday.
Breaking from the No. 2 post, I Want Revenge was caught flat-footed when the gates opened and fell about five lengths behind the field. Slowly but surely, Talamo moved his colt into contention as the field cruised along the backstretch, with Just a Coincidence setting the pace.
On the turn for home, I Want Revenge was right in the thick of it but was blocked by Just a Coincidence Imperial Council and Lord Justice. Talamo found an opening and shot through, and was bumped briefly by Atomic Rain. No matter, I Want Revenge had plenty left and cruised past the finish line to the cheers of a small but enthusiastic crowd.
Talamo, the 19-year-old rising star from California, is now looking at his first trip to the Derby,
"It's phenomenal," Talamo said. "I've never been in this spot before ... it's like a fairy tale."
The Wood has been used as a final prep for three of the past eight Derby winners: Funny Cide was second in 2003 Wood, Monarchos was second in 2001 and Fusaichi Pegasus won it in 2000.
In earlier races at Aqueduct, Capt. Candyman Can ($4.40) won the Bay Shore Stakes for 3-year-olds and Giant Moon ($29.40) was the upset winner in the Excelsior. After the Wood, Kodiak Kowboy ($5.80) edged Fabulous Strike by a head to win the $300,000 Carter Handicap.