Wood Memorial (G1)
Winner (pts): Verrazano (100)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Normandy Invasion (40), Vyjack (20), Mr. Palmer (10)
CTD Analysis: You will hear a lot about the Wood Memorial (G1) from now until the first Saturday in May. Considering Verrazano is the likely favorite of the Kentucky Derby and the fact he did not win the Wood by daylight as many thought he should, bettors now have reason to look elsewhere on their Derby program.
You will hear talk of the speed figure- a 95 Beyer- and how it paled in comparison to the 105 earned by Goldencents on the West Coast. You will also hear talk of the pace, which was slow and something Verrazano was essentially part of and took advantage of. You will hear from those who think another furlong and Normandy Invasion would have been the one earning 100 points instead of Verrazano.
All of that will happen, but Verrazano is still my current pick- bad post position not withstanding- of winning this year’s Kentucky Derby. You can’t fault him for being towards the front end of a slow pace. We knew going in, the Wood Memorial would be devoid of a fast pacesetter so jockey John Velazquez was left with no other option. From the moment Verrazano began to accelerate to the lead around the 3/4 pole it was not exactly pretty. Despite the premature burst, Verrazano dug in nonetheless the rest of the way and fought off a very hard charging Normandy Invasion. While he didn’t earn any “eye-popping” points, we finally got to see how Verrazano acts when faced with a stiff challenge. It was a good lesson learned, plus a with quicker pace in the Derby and further training, I think Verrazano can rate further off the front and make a stronger sustained run later into the final turn.
Normandy Invasion stamped himself the likely wise-guy pick of this year’s Derby. Everyone looks for a strong finisher for the extended distance of the Derby, and Normandy Invasion is the proverbial diamond in the rough. As much as I dislike comparing horses to previous Classic runners, I can’t help but be reminded of 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro. There’s something to be said for horses who constantly find trouble and always end up the fighting bridesmaid on the big stage.
Vyjack was considered Verrazano’s main threat but faltered in the late stages of the Wood to finish third by just a length. He was found to have mucus buildup in his lungs, but it’s likely he won’t relish the added distance either way. Still, if his condition clears up there will be some who feel he could be sitting on sneaky big effort next out.
Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Winner (pts): Goldencents (100)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Flashback (40), Super Ninety Nine (20), Tiz a Minister (10)
CTD Analysis: Jockey Kevin Krigger got his revenge in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) with a strong stalk and pounce effort from Goldencents. The race couldn’t have set up any better for the son of Into Mischief as Flashback did not press the pace like he did in the San Felipe (G2) which allowed Goldencents to comfortably bide his time along pacesetter Super Ninety Nine. When Krigger set him down, Goldencents kicked into high gear with more than a length separating him and eventual runner-up Flashback. It was another 8 1/2 lengths back to Super Ninety Nine third, which further indicates just how fast Goldencents was moving.
The Beyer speed figure of 105 is the highest of any prep so far, and will probably further the cause for Goldencents to be among the favorites in the Derby. I’m still not completely sold. There is a good chance Goldencents will get pressure from some of the other 19 entrants in Kentucky Derby, as he did in the San Felipe. If that happens, can he stay calm, cool, and collected or will he exert too much unnecessary energy? It appears O’Neill made some strides with his training leading up to the Santa Anita Derby and could continue to do so, but I’m betting the Derby stage (not to mention distance) will be too much for Goldencents to handle.
Flashback was found to have a knee chip following the race and is unfortunately off the Derby trail. It was a strong effort nonetheless. Super Ninety Nine set too hot of a pace and had nothing left in the tank. As much as I believed he would have a redeeming effort Saturday, it appears his disposition, class, and pedigree will not allow him to move on down the trail.
John Velazquez, who has a decision to make between riding Orb or Verrazano, was thrown from his mount Sunday. He injured his wrist and ribs but plans on returning to the saddle Derby week// Velazquez is not the only jockey with a tough decision, as Javier Castellano must choose between Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Revolutionary and fast closing Wood runner-up Normandy Invasion// Several Blue Grass (G1) and Arkansas Derby (G1) probables worked over the weekend. You can find their times and reports below// Lots of opinions on Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial below// A great article on the short history of synthetic runners and their Derby success- or lack thereof. Since Keeneland converted to Polytrack in 2007 the Kentucky Derby record of the top three Blue Grass (G1) finishers is 13-1-0-2// Sounds like there is a strong possibility Will Take Charge will bypass the Blue Grass and instead train up to the Kentucky Derby. Some feel that raises a red flag// more…
Flashback off Kentucky Derby trail with knee chip (Bloodhorse)
Wood, SA Derby thoughts (DRF Blog)
Can Verrazano make Kentucky Derby history? (Forbes Online)
Verrazano undefeated by not untested…really? (Horseracing Nation)
Wood Memorial: Ramifications from Saturday’s results (Bleacher Report)
Coming around (a bit) on Verrazano (Left at the Gate)
Derby rematch looms for Verrazano, ‘Invasion’ (Bloodhorse)
Vyjack remains on course for Kentucky Derby (Bloodhorse)
Super Saturday [thoughts on Wood and SA Derby] (Pull The Pocket)
Mylute breezes ‘easy’ half mile; Falling Sky works toward Arkansas Derby (Churchill Downs)
Java’s War, Falling Sky in Blue Grass works (Bloodhorse)
Kenny Troutt headed back to Kentucky Derby with Revolutionary (Dallas Guide Live)
Derby dart board (The Rail NY Times Blog)
Uncaptured- KEE- 5F- 1.01:40- B- 13/77
Dewey Square- KEE- 5F- 1.03:00- B- 52/77
Rydilluc- KEE- 7F- 1.28:60- B- 1/1
Demonic- HOL- 7F- 1.27:60- H- 2/3
Dynamic Sky- CD- 5F- 1.01:40- B- 6/14
Frac Daddy- GP- 5F- 1.00:56- B- 1/13
Java's War- GP- 5F- 1.00:56- B- 1/13
Mylute- CD- 4F- 50:20- B- 16/24
Falling Sky- CD- 5F- 1.00:00- B- 2/13
My Name Is Michael- KEE- 4F- 49:00- B- 35/61
Belvin- SA- 4F- 47:60- H- 4/40
War Academy- SA- 7F- 1.26:20- H- 1/3
Manando- SA- 4F- 50:40- H- 36/40
Overanalyze- PMM- 5F- 1.01:30- B- 4/18
Heaven's Runway- OP- 5F- 1.02:60- B- 22/49
West Hills Giant- BEL- 5F- 1.00:47- B- 2/9
Den's Legacy- SA- 4F- 47:80- H- 6/37
Top 10 (Star-Ledger)
Derby Gauge Top 15 (In The Money)
Haskin’s Derby Dozen 4/8 (Bloodhorse Blog)
Quotes and Tweets:
"Chad says Normandy Invasion came out of Wood in good shape. Will ship to Churchill on 4-14. Will give Javier some time to make decision"- David Grening via Twitter
"Verrazano will be the Derby fav. Should get a good price on Orb and he is my early pick to win"- Mike Battaglia via Twitter
“Rafael Bejarano will replace injured John Velazquez on Overanalyze in Ark Derby on Saturday, according to Pletcher.” Jay Privman via Twitter
"Will Take Charge to 'probably' train up to Kentucky Derby, trainer Wayne Lukas said. #TitletownFive to run in Derby Trial as Preakness prep"- Robert Yates via Twitter