Linda Rice Discusses Matt King Coal and the Wood Memorial

Linda Rice Discusses Matt King Coal and the Wood Memorial

The up-and-coming three-year-old Matt King Coal, who is one of the fastest colts on the Derby trail in terms of Beyer speed figures, completed his preparations for the April 9th Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct when he breezed seven furlong on March 30th.

Coming off a win over Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) contender My Man Sam in an 8.5-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Aqueduct, Matt King Coal went the distance in 1:25.20, which will mark his final workout before the Wood Memorial.

“I decided to only give him two works into the race,” trained Linda Rice was quoted as saying on the Aqueduct website. “He came back after that race and worked three-quarters really nice. With his last breeze on Wednesday, he went beautifully; so we’re ready.”

Matt King Coal broke his maiden in impressive fashion at Belmont last October, then was sidelined with a minor illness that delayed his 2016 comeback. He had been under consideration for a run in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) in March at Aqueduct, but with only three workouts under his belt at the time, Rice chose to run him in an allowance race instead. “I was in a little bit of a rush to get him back and that’s why I chose the allowance race over the Gotham,” she explained. “Maybe if I had gotten a fourth breeze in him, we might’ve gone with the Gotham but, at the time, I felt like I barely had him ready to go. So I chose the allowance race and then that came up so tough. But he ran great and we’re very excited about the Wood. It’s a little added distance, tougher competition, but we’re as ready as we can be.”

Jose Ortiz, who has ridden Matt King Coal in both of his victories, will be aboard again in the Wood Memorial. The race will mark a big step up in class for Matt King Coal, who has never previously run in a stakes race, but Rice believes Matt King Coal is ready.

“It can be a little intimating to jump right into a Grade 1 but I think we’ve taken all the natural steps,” Rice continued. “He broke his maiden and we gave him time last fall. He was running fast numbers and he looked like a nice colt, so I wanted to give him a chance to grow up before I threw him into the deep end of the pool.

“It’s surprising that he has the speed he has because when you look at him, and when I bought him at the OBS April sale a year ago, I was just shocked that a horse of his stature could be that fast,” said Rice. “And Jose thought the same way; when he breaks from the gate, he’s surprised that he has that kind of speed.

“There are certain things about it; he’s been two turns already but he’s never been off the lead yet so that, of course, leaves an unanswered question, and I’ve still got the blinkers on him” Rice said. “I don’t really anticipate making any changes going into the race. We’re just going to let it unfold and let Jose figure it out. The less instruction the better. Jose has got great instincts and we’re just going to let it roll.”

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board! Also, if you’re a fan of horse racing history, please check out my upcoming book Lost to the Ages: 10 Forgotten Champions of U.S. Horse Racingscheduled for release later this year!

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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