04/07/2013 10:53AM

Wood, SA Derby, 3yo Fillies Thoughts


Like a lot of folks, I wasn’t bowled over by Verrazano’s victory in Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. At first, anyway. I mean, I walked away from the Wood giving Verrazano credit for remaining undefeated, winning over a new track, and beating two opponents in Normandy Invasion and Vyjack who were far better horses than he had faced before. Still, Verrazano had to work hard to score after the easiest trip he could have ever asked for, tracking a very slow early pace. If anything, the horse I was impressed with in the immediate wake of the Wood was Normandy Invasion, who finished strongly to get second, just under a length behind Verrazano and a neck before Vyjack, despite having the difficult task of rallying into the slow pace.

But after thinking about it overnight, I think Verrazano ran better in the Wood than many are giving him credit for. Was it his best race? No. Is the Kentucky Derby more open now on Sunday morning than it was 24 hours earlier? Yes. But I think, even with the benefit of the slow pace, Verrazano showed Saturday that he can finish well.

After a first quarter mile in 24.89 and a second quarter in 24.73, Verrazano made his move into the hottest part of the Wood’s pace. Verrazano took over late in a third quarter run in 24.12, held it in a fourth quarter in 23.98, and prevailed though a final eighth in 12.55. The Wood was the sort of slow-early, fast-late race that you would normally find exclusively on the turf, not on the dirt. I’m not sure it is fair to discredit Verrazano for winning a race that was run in a fashion unfamiliar to a lot of these 3-year-olds. In fact, they way he finished Saturday, I think it bodes well for Verrazano stretching out to the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby, and might even suggest that he can be effective coming from farther off the pace than he has had to so far.

I still also think that, under the circumstances, Normandy Invasion ran very well. But let’s not get too carried away. Normandy Invasion was at more of a disadvantage having to come from behind Verrazano, but it wasn’t like he was miles behind Verrazano early. He wasn’t. Normandy Invasion was four lengths behind Verrazano a quarter of mile into the Wood, only a little more than a length behind him a half mile in, and 3 1-2 lengths behind him at the three-quarters call.

Unlike the Wood, Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby was run in a more conventional, fast-early, slow-late style. Goldencents ran well in victory after pressing the pace set by Super Ninety Nine, who wound up being beaten almost 10 lengths. But Flashback, who finished second, disappointed again. Flashback had a fantastic trip in the Santa Anita Derby, sitting the inside pocket early before tipping out at the perfect time on the far turn, and he had absolutely no excuse not to win. I think that, at least at this stage of his career, Flashback has distance issues. I believe he is more of a late running sprinter or miler than a true router right now.

UPDATE, Monday morning - The breaking news overnight that Flashback came out of the Santa Anita Derby with a knee chip and is off the Triple Crown trail gives him a legitimate excuse for his loss on Saturday. I do, however, still wonder if he is a real distance horse.

Keep in mind that the relative good finish of the Wood and soft finish of the Santa Anita Derby have a lot to do with the paces in each race. Horses who go out strong early like they did at Santa Anita should have less in their tanks late, and come home on the slow side. Horses who go out slow early like in the Wood should have more in reserve late, and should finish better. And of course, the relative speed of the racing surface has an enormous impact on all interior fractions and final times as well. But with those caveats, I thought it would be useful to post the final three furlong fractions of all the major nine furlong Kentucky Derby preps run so far (don’t forget, we still have the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass this Saturday), with a characterization of the early paces that preceded them. Here they are:

Wood Memorial – slow pace – 36.53

Santa Anita Derby – fast pace – 38.29

Florida Derby – slow pace – 37.98

Louisiana Derby – fast pace – 38.44

Sunland Derby – fast pace – 37.58

Spiral – slow pace – 38.98

Looking at these, the two things that I find interesting are Govenor Charlie’s good come home time in the Sunland Derby (which is mitigated somewhat by a lightning fast track that prevailed that day) and the very slow finish of the Spiral despite circumstances that favored a better finish.

Finally, a few quick thoughts on Saturday’s three big races for 3-year-old fillies:

Beholder is very good. But she also had a very easy early lead in her Santa Anita Oaks score. I doubt such easy leads will be had in the Kentucky Oaks.

Given that she is most definitely not a need-the-lead type, when they posted a half mile fraction of 48.12, and Emollient was three in front, it was only a matter of how big her win margin in Keeneland’s Ashland would be. It wound up being nine. Now we have to figure out if Emollient, who has run well on dirt before but never this well, can transfer that Polytrack form to Churchill’s main track.

Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar, the one-two finishers in the Gazelle at Aqueduct, are both nice fillies. But Close Hatches’s front running win Saturday (which made her 3 for 3) came at a point in the day when the inside and speed still had a distinct advantage on Aqueduct’s main track. The track did even out in subsequent races, however.

Brad Labrosse More than 1 year ago
borel might not be in the top ten jocks in the land, but at churchhill downs he is. 3 wins in the last few years. he will make revolutionary a better horse. he will hit the board.
Eli Dawkins More than 1 year ago
All the preps are over now time for serious handicapping.Time to start eliminating some pretenders good luck to all.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
The Derby comes down to who gets the cleanest trip Period. It is probably ,imho , the least valuable of the triple crown series in terms of esatblishing 3 y old dominance. It is all about the trip
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
the derby is always an exciting event.it is so renowned by now,that if they had 20 humans running it would get print.personally,the oaks this year is shaping up as maybe a more contentious and exciting race.there are 4 to 6 star power fillies.the depth of the field is un matched by any other oaks field in the last 15 years.there will always be questions regarding wins.did they have an easy lead,will they get it again.the reason these fillies have been winning so easily is that theyjust overpowered their opponents.because many in the field are so called pace fillies,it will be interesting to see who goes and who backs off.as far as the price goes.i really cannot see anyone but bafferts filly as the favorite.not saying she will win.but her 2 races speed figure wise will attract the publics money.
Sam More than 1 year ago
I'd like to know how you and Privman can put Governor Charlie 8th in ranking . The colt has a second in his maiden maiden, then a win in a maiden; then he jumps up and wins the Sunland, an overly rated Graded Stakes, in a 95 Beyer, yet you got over five veterans who have a 95 or better. I think you guys love the trainers more than you like the horses.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
As has been the case for the 15 years Jay and I have done Derby Watch, and as noted at the bottom of every Derby Watch chart over the course of those 15 years, these horses are ranked in order of my future book Derby odds. Look around, check the odds in Vegas. Govenor Charlie is getting play from actual people walking up and betting actual money. My odds reflect that.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Have you forgotten the undefeated filly Unlimited Budget in your Oaks remarks? And if the track turns up muddy, just remember that she is a half-sister to Jardin, who upset the Schuylerville on an off track - their dam was by Valid Appeal (mud blood).
Denny More than 1 year ago
Come on mike, what Verrazano showed in the wood, is that he won't finish well in the derby. If he does his final quarter in less then 26:30 I'll buy you a beer.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Just for the curious... There seems to be a certain amount of debate in this column regarding Goldencents, Verrazano, and Normandy Invasion. For the record, let me just share some of my preliminary calculations based on the published charts (not the video from the replays). The "standard parallel time chart" I refer to has the 100 point score awarded to a 9 furlong race around 2 turns at 1:51.27 seconds which translates to 53.385 FPS (feet-per-second). Goldencents was awarded a 105 Beyer figure for winning the Santa Anita Derby in 1:48.76 seconds. Reverse-engineering the 100 point score yields 1:49.30 (which translates to 54.344 FPS). This means the strip was extremely fast, so actual performance is multiplied by the track variant factor of 98.2%. Verrazano was awarded a 95 Beyer figure for winning the Wood Memorial in 1:51.27 seconds. Reverse-engineering the 100 point score yields 1:49.72 (which translates to 54.380 FPS). This means the strip was also fairly fast, so actual performance is multiplied by the track variant factor of 98.6%. The results of the FPS scores follows. (The number in parentheses is the number of furlongs making up the race segment. The next number is the average feet per second based on fractional times, adjusted for track variant, with 44 FPS subtracted so that I can derive some means of a "total" for performance. The next number encapsulated with the pipe characters is the estimated velocity in FPS of the horse at the end of that race segement. Therefore, the last number is an estimation of how fast the horse was moving when he hit the wire.) The "total" is a sum of each race segment multiplied by the average FPS (which again, has already had 44 FPS subtracted). Goldencents: (4) 11.6 |54.5|, (2) 9.9 |53.4|, (2) 7.4 |49.4|, (1) 5.6 |49.8| Total: 86.5 Verrazano: (4) 8.4 |54.0|, (2) 10.8 |55.7|, (2) 10.5 |53.3|, (1) 8.1 |50.8| Total: 84.1 Normandy Invasion: (4) 8.2 |53.4|, (2) 10.0 |54.6|, (2) 10.7 |54.7|, (1) 9.5 |52.3| Total: 84.1 You can see Goldencents with the faster half-mile. The pace had a telling effect, but it also wore down the competion; they just could not muster anything late. Both Verrazano and Normandy Invasion started slow and picked things up. Normandy Invasion appears to be a 1-dimensional runner where he always waits for the field to settle before he gets in gear. Conversely, in spite of Verrazano's apparently slow start, we know from looking at his other past performances that he is entirely capable of kicking out the jams early. If I were to make my decision at this moment and it only involved these 3 horses, I would have to take Verrazano. In the words of a dear departed friend who I knew personally to be one of the most knowledgeable of any handicapper I ever new, "...he only ran as fast as he had to..." I think Verrazano has another gear yet. The Santa Anita Derby
richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Way overanalyzing things man!
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
a lot of drivel...........
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Maybe...what you fail to see is who ran the fastest speed and sustained it for the greatest length of distance. You may as well keep playing names (like my wife) or go by silks...have fun, but that's about it.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Charles, with all due respect. You go to the lengthy trouble of working all those numbers, even to the thousanths, and then throw them out the window and pick another horse. According to your numbers, doesn't Golden Cents come up best? Didn't he "run the fastest speed and sustained it for the greatest length of distance'? Then you discard the numbers and pick another horse. Doesn't matter to me, but why then defend the numbers if you're not using them anyway?
Richard More than 1 year ago
Okay....I, also, tap into your times figures and agree with the correlation of "fast early, slow late" and vise versa. In the case of Verrazano (spinterISH speed...could go long) it makes perfect sense that he put in that wicked fourth quarter off an early "gallop", but I'm NOT impressed, unless "greeness" or lack of agressive riding was the cause of his final eighth in 12:55. Off the first three quarters of the Wood, shouldn't he have been able to throw down a 36 flat, final 3/8ths ??? Maybe I expected too much, but, what does that final eight, also say of VIJACK ( post race mucus) and the forever closing Normandy Invasion, who SHOULD have run faster than 12:30, or "about" that? Now we have the La. Derby, quite the opposite run race. Revolutionary (and, "yes", he'll have a hard task of coming from last in the Derby if they are content to breed him to Zenyatta) put in a very long sustained run, WIDE, and fractionally, should have crawled home, albeit faster than the others, as the early pace took its toll on the entire field. BUT wait ! What was HIS final 1/8th? Unless I'm mistaken, it was faster than Verrazano's. It seems a contradiction, not of theory but of horse, for if Revolutionary was drawing off only relative to that field wilting from the early fractions, and his third quarter seemed to endorse that, what accounts for his (I think) fast final 1/8th ???
Larry Rudolph More than 1 year ago
Mike, 1;35.94 at a mile to 1:47.52 at a mile and an eighth is under 12 seconds for the last eighth. Check the replay that is on this website. I looked at it several times and those are the splits for the Santa Anita Derby. Also what More than Ready horse has ever won at a mile and a quarter in a stakes race.? I happen to be at Winstar today and they could not come up with one.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
Larry, I am going off the splits and final time in the official chart, which is the final word in such matters. One other poster here, VanSavant, said the fractions and final time posted on the SA video feed were incorrect.