04/08/2013 2:29PM

Kentucky Derby dropout list adds Flashback

Benoit & Associates
Goldencents may be the only horse to come out of the Santa Anita Derby and go on to the Kentucky Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The first three finishers from the Wood Memorial all are set to head to Kentucky, and quite soon, but the Santa Anita Derby might have the victorious Goldencents as its lone representative in the May 4 Kentucky Derby, the result of injuries to two top West Coast contenders both before and after the Santa Anita Derby.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

Flashback, who finished second to Goldencents in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, was found Sunday afternoon to have a small chip in his right knee, trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday night. He is off the Derby trail, but is expected to make a full recovery after having surgery in Kentucky with Dr. Larry Bramlage, the noted equine surgeon.

Only days earlier, Hear the Ghost – who defeated Flashback last month in the San Felipe Stakes and was entered in the Santa Anita Derby – was removed from Derby consideration owing to a knee injury.

Baffert said Sunday night regarding Flashback: “There was heat in his right knee and we took X-rays and had them sent to Bramlage. He’s got a chip. It’s small. It’s fresh. When you take it out right away they can make a full recovery.”

Baffert said Flashback was scheduled to leave for Kentucky on Wednesday for the surgery with Bramlage at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington.

Flashback has raced four times, with two wins and two seconds. He won his debut at Betfair Hollywood Park in December, then won the Robert Lewis Stakes in February at Santa Anita before finishing second in the San Felipe. He is owned by Gary and Mary West.

In addition to Flashback and Hear the Ghost, other high-profile runners to come off the Derby trail in recent weeks include Violence and I’ve Struck a Nerve – both injured – and last year’s champion 2-year-old male, Shanghai Bobby.

Goldencents, who got a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in the Santa Anita Derby, emerged from the race “great,” according to trainer Doug O’Neill, who won last year’s Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness with I’ll Have Another, who was voted the champion 3-year-old male of 2012.

O’Neill said he envisioned the same timetable in terms of works and shipping for Goldencents prior to the Derby as he used last year with I’ll Have Another. Specifically, he said Goldencents would do the bulk of his training the next few weeks in California – Goldencents trains at Santa Anita – and would have his final Derby drill here.

“Nine or 10 days out, he’ll have his final breeze here, and then we’ll fly seven days out, something like that,” O’Neill said. “It worked last year.”

Goldencents is owned by a partnership that includes Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach. Pitino’s RAP Racing owns the smallest share, just 5 percent. Glenn Sorgenstein and Josh Kaplan – who race under the banner W C Racing – own the majority interest, 75 percent, and Dave Kenney has 20 percent.

Louisville was set to play Michigan on Monday night for the NCAA championship.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

At Aqueduct in New York on Saturday, Verrazano remained unbeaten in the Wood Memorial, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95. Both Normandy Invasion and Vyjack, second and third, also turned in solid final preps, and all three are bound for Churchill Downs. They are scheduled to share a flight from New York to Kentucky on Sunday.

Under the new points system put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine the Derby field if more than the maximum 20 horses enter, both Verrazano and Vyjack already had enough points going into the Wood, which, like the Santa Anita Derby, was worth 170 points overall, 100 for first. Normandy Invasion’s second-place finish earned him an additional 40 points, which assures him a spot in the field, especially considering the defections of prominent point earners like Flashback, Hear the Ghost, and I’ve Struck a Nerve.

Normandy Invasion, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, had raced just once previously this year when a troubled fifth in the Risen Star Stakes, for which he earned zero points.

“We gambled by running the horse only twice this year, Mr. Porter and I, with the objective if we did get into the Derby that we had a horse that was lightly raced and just peaking at the right time to really have a shot to win the Derby,” trainer Chad Brown said. “The risk was not getting in the Derby. If these points are enough to get in then the plan has worked so far.”

Brown said that while it’s not generally his style to ship in early, “This particular horse would benefit from becoming familiar with the track.”

John Velazquez, who rode Verrazano, and Javier Castellano, who rode Normandy Invasion, both have other top Derby prospects, Orb for Velazquez, Revolutionary for Castellano. Their decisions, plus Velazquez’s recovery from injuries suffered in an accident Sunday at Aqueduct, will be of keen interest.

Vyjack, who suffered his first loss in the Wood, was found to have mucus in his airway during a post-race endoscopic examination, according to trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who said Vyjack would be treated with antibiotics for a few days.

It had originally been reported that Vyjack had bled, but Rodriguez and owner David Wilkenfeld clarified late Sunday morning that it was mucus and not blood.

Rodriguez said he hoped to retain jockey Joel Rosario, who also could be in line for a pick-up mount on horses Velazquez or Castellano spurn.

The final two Derby preps that are worth 170 points overall – with 100 to the winner – are Saturday, and both are expected to have bulky fields chasing Derby dreams. More than the maximum 14 are expected to enter the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, headed by Java’s War, Palace Malice, Rydilluc, and Uncaptured.

The field for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn should include Den’s Legacy, Overanalyze, Oxbow, and War Academy.

– additional reporting by David Grening, Marty McGee, and Mary Rampellini