Wood Memorial winner Rajiv Maragh won his best race since returning to ride last winter and was named Jockey of the Week for April 3-9, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
With just a few weeks and five races remaining on the road to the Kentucky Derby, competition was tough in three prep races across the country on Saturday. The $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) was no exception, and Rajiv Maragh, aboard Irish War Cry for the first time, faced favorite Battalion Runner and six more Derby hopefuls at Aqueduct. The pair sat off the pace before dueling with Battalion Runner in the stretch, a gap of five lengths separating the two leaders from the rest of the field. Maragh and Irish War Cry ($9.00) pulled away to win by over three lengths for trainer Graham Motion and owner Isabelle de Tomaso.
Maragh was involved in an incident in a race at Belmont Park in 2015 resulting in multiple back and rib fractures. After 16 months of rehabilitation, he returned to the track last November and notched his first win since the injury shortly thereafter.
The race marks Maragh’s best victory since returning to ride on opening weekend at Aqueduct in November. Since then, he had won one other graded stakes event, the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct aboard Spartiatis ($12.20) last month.
Maragh’s win was also the second time he had won the Wood; Maragh teamed up with Jimmy Jerkins and Centennial Farms to bring Wicked Strong to the Aqueduct winner’s circle in 2014. Maragh and Wicked Strong finished fourth in that year’s running of the Kentucky Derby and won the Jim Dandy that summer at Belmont.
With his win in the Wood and placings in other stakes, Maragh was the third leading rider by earnings with $633,450 and the fourth leading rider by stakes earnings with $499,500.
Earlier on Saturday’s card, he placed second in the Bay Shore Stakes (G3), finished third in the Gazelle Stakes (G2), and won a maiden special weight. For the week, he carried a 14% win rate and finished in the money on 44% of his 29 mounts.
To date in 2017, Maragh has won 43 of his 267 starts and ranks 14th among North American jockeys with $2,684,391 in total earnings. His lifetime earnings exceed $88 million out of 13,292 starts.
Saturday’s race added 100 points to Irish War Cry’s total; with 110 points, he now sits comfortably in fourth place on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Prior to the Wood, Irish War Cry won the Holy Bull (G2) and then suffered his only career loss in the Fountain of Youth (G2), finishing seventh as the post-time favorite.