OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Entering the Aqueduct starting gate, I Want Revenge was supposed to win Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Two seconds after leaving the gate, he was supposed to have no chance.
But in a performance that could vault him to favoritism for the May 2 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, I Want Revenge overcame his brutal beginning to win the $750,000 Wood by 1 1/2 lengths over West Side Bernie. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Just a Coincidence in third.
They were followed in the order of finish by Atomic Rain, Imperial Council, Cellar Dweller, Lord Justice, and Lime Rickey.
While confirming his affinity for dirt, I Want Revenge - who won the Gotham by 8 1/2 lengths here last month - showed a ton of heart, while his jockey, the 19-year-old Joe Talamo, displayed a calm, cool demeanor that belies his age.
At the break, I Want Revenge threw his head in the air and leapt with his front feet, breaking last and spotting the field four or five lengths. I Want Revenge trailed the field of eight while Lord Justice set fractions of 24.50 and 48.14 seconds for the opening half-mile.
Leaving the five-furlong marker, I Want Revenge split horses and moved into fifth. He drew ever closer by the quarter pole but was behind Imperial Council, with nowhere to run. At the three-sixteenths pole, he got pushed out into the five path by Atomic Rain. Leaving the eighth pole, I Want a Revenge split Just a Coincidence and West Side Bernie and drew clear while being just hand-ridden by Talamo.
"You just can't panic, you got to go with Plan B," Talamo said. "You can't really rush him up, you have to stay relaxed and let the race go like it is. At the half-mile pole he was moving so good, it was just a matter if he can get out. At the quarter pole, he was covered up, and then right when I found a seam I asked him to go and he just kicked it home."
I Want Revenge, who raced in the red, white, and blue colors of IEAH Stables, which this week bought half-interest in the horse from David Lanzman, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.49 and returned $3.
"You got to be more impressed with him today; he overcame every obstacle you can imagine in a race and still prevailed," winning trainer Jeff Mullins said. "It's pretty special."
By bouncing back from his dismal sixth-place finish in the Lane's End Stakes with his runner-up performance in the Wood, West Side Bernie earned a berth in the Kentucky Derby, said his trainer, Kelly Breen.