04/01/2013 3:16PM

Kentucky Derby: Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial next regional tests

Shigeki Kikkawa
Flashback, headed to the Santa Anita Derby, had what Bob Baffert called a "perfect" work on Monday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Like the NCAA basketball tournament, the road to the Kentucky Derby has its own version of March Madness, with the regionals last weekend in Louisiana, Florida, and Dubai each producing finalists. This week, attention turns to California and New York, then next week to Kentucky and Arkansas. Call it April Anxiety.

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

The Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct – both Saturday, both Grade 1 races – are both worth 170 points overall, with 100 points to the winner, under the new system put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 4 Derby. Of the horses expected to run in the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood, only Hear the Ghost – who won the San Felipe and goes in the Santa Anita Derby – and Wood runners Verrazano, who won the Tampa Bay Derby, and Vyjack, the Gotham winner, are already assured of berths in the Derby. Everybody else needs to step up.

Included in that large category is Flashback, who until the San Felipe was considered California’s leading contender for the Derby. He finished second in the San Felipe after getting caught in an early speed duel, and when he runs Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby, Garrett Gomez will take over as his rider.

On Monday here at Santa Anita, Flashback had his final drill for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. Working alongside fellow Bob Baffert trainee Del Mar Sunset, Flashback was officially credited with a half-mile in 48 seconds, though he broke off at the 4 1/2-furlong pole and continued out well past the wire with Martin Garcia aboard. Regardless, Flashback was well within himself, but Del Mar Sunset, a maiden, surely held his own.

“That was a perfect work,” Baffert said. “We’re ready.”

Flashback better be ready. Hear the Ghost, the San Felipe winner, will head the field for the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, and both Tiz a Minister, who was third in the San Felipe, and Goldencents, who was fourth, are expected. Baffert also will send out Super Ninety Nine – whom Garcia will ride – and the comebacking Power Broker, with Rafael Bejarano.

Another Santa Anita Derby prospect, Storm Fighter – a recent maiden winner for trainer Bruce Headley – worked earlier Monday, going five furlongs in 59.60.

Entries for the Santa Anita Derby and the $1 million Wood Memorial will be taken Wednesday.

The Wood is the final Derby prep for the unbeaten Verrazano, the favorite for the Kentucky Derby. It will be his first race outside the state of Florida. Vyjack also is unbeaten, but he has made all his starts at Aqueduct, including two on the main track, so he has the home-court advantage.

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

The race is pivotal for Normandy Invasion, who was a troubled fifth in the Risen Star in his first start of the year. He heads into the Wood with a mere 4 points, all from last fall’s runner-up finish in the Remsen.

Now that the most valuable of Derby preps are being run, horses can leap up the points standings. Revolutionary came into the Louisiana Derby with just 10 points, but he took down first prize with his late-running victory and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Similarly, Lines of Battle had no points before he won the United Arab Emirates Derby on Saturday.

Orb already was in the Derby with the 50 points he got for winning the Fountain of Youth, but he put an exclamation point on his prep season with his victory in the Florida Derby, for which he got a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

Revolutionary and Mylute, who finished second in the Louisiana Derby, are both bound for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby.

Revolutionary has now won three straight races, all around two turns.

“He’s a horse that has a great rhythm to him when he gets going,” Todd Pletcher, who trains Revolutionary, said Saturday, “so the way he finished a mile and an eighth today and the way he galloped out certainly makes you think the mile and a quarter is within his scope.”

Mylute has 42 points, which likely will be enough to get in, unless 10 horses leapfrog him in the next month. That is mathematically possible, but not probable.

Lines of Battle was one of just two horses in the UAE Derby who were nominated to the Triple Crown. His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, said he was sent Dubai with the Kentucky Derby in mind.

When O’Brien ran Master of Hounds and Daddy Long Legs in the Derby the last two years, he came in just days before the race. He was unsure if he would do the same with Lines of Battle.

“It’s possible we’d ship him over there a little bit earlier this time,” O’Brien said Saturday night in Dubai. “We’ll have a look and see.”

Orb and Itsmyluckyday, who was second in the Florida Derby, both are set to continue on to the Kentucky Derby. Itsmyluckyday earned 40 points in the Florida Derby, giving him 50 overall. He earned 10 points when winning the Holy Bull in January.

Shanghai Bobby, fifth in the Florida Derby after finishing second in the Holy Bull, has now lost both his starts at age 3 after an unbeaten season at 2, which culminated with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and an Eclipse Award as champion male 2-year-old.

He has been officially removed from Derby consideration by his owners, Starlight Racing.

– additional reporting by David Grening and Marcus Hersh

edb More than 1 year ago
The two year old BC champ should have an automatic entry into derby. Points system is necessary, but needs tweaking. Far too many points for later races and one hit wonders are still sneaking in. Black Onyx, Lines of Battle, Mylute????? There's my box for last two places in the derby finish. SA derby is wonderful betting race and could be a shocker. I agree that derby winner will be east coast beast. No brown concrete at CD
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
The whole point is that young 3yos are growing, and some are improving a lot while others are pretty much grown up already and won't improve much. Unfortunately, many 2yo champions fall into the second category; their early maturity allowed them to defeat their fellows at 2, but they fall behind the curve as the others grow. Silent Screen was overtaken by Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters. Fly So Free was overtaken by Strike the Gold and Hansel. Arazi, who didn't grow at all over the winter, was overtaken by everybody. What the Derby field doesn't need are 2yo champs and/or BC Juvie winners (like Action This Day) who haven't progressed and haven't run a decent race all spring cluttering up the Derby field.
Wesley Wright More than 1 year ago
Shanghai Bobby off the KD trail. The points system took good care of him. $1,761,000 in Non-restricted Stakes Earnings denied entry to the KD.Ha, ha, ha! I really like the points system.
JHart More than 1 year ago
I like it too. Saves us from having to watch Shanghai Bobby take the spot of a legitimate Derby contender, only to see him press the pace early and finish dead last going a mile and a quarter. Who cares about his $1.7 million earnings? I admit SB is a brilliant colt though. The 2 yr old quarter horse that ran out over $2 million in graded earnings last year is brilliant as well, but something tells me he'd get his head jerked off in the Derby (sarcasm). SB has a bright future ahead of him, but he's gonna be more of a miler. He's got no business being in the derby though. Why do that to him?
Mark More than 1 year ago
So he d finish last ?
JHart More than 1 year ago
Last or close to last. Point is..... He wouldn't come close to hitting the board. You disagree?
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
After watching his last 2 efforts, would you say he can win the Derby? The points do work then.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
One of the better prep races. Pace scenario = important.
Steve More than 1 year ago
last time baffert had 4, three of them ran in the top 4.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
Flashback has no chance of winning any derby... maybe as a 4 year old he can stretch out his speed... why would Baffert have 4 horses pointed to the same race if he knew he had a winner in Flashback? filling up the starting gate to make it difficult for come from behind horses? Don't think so.... expecting a long shot in the santa anita derby.. and not betting the winner whom ever it may be in the Kentucky derby. west coast is toast... except for footbridge if he wins the Blue grass.
Kimberly Martin More than 1 year ago
I'm looking for Tiz A Minister to get up for a piece!
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Right. Baffert is going to make his early pick, while these horses develop, and tell the other owners their horse has no shot.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
I'm not saying Baffert will not win the race. I just don't think Flashback will be the winner.
John More than 1 year ago
I bet Hear the Ghost last time out, and his tendancy to change leads late in the stretch has me very concerned, but alas, Hollendorfer can improve just about any horse ! BUT, I think the difference this time out will be Garrett Gomez, riding FLASHBACK. He is patient, and I think all this horse needs is for someone to punch the button at the right time of the race. Lots of speed again, Super Ninety Nine, Goldencents........interesting Derby on the horizon, indeed !
John More than 1 year ago
Julia, and how about Midnight Lucky ? This is something that needs to be changed, at least give these fillys some sort of numbers for certain races and allow them to at least qualify ! I have a feeling, somewhere along the line, each of these two fillys will be taking on the boys, with interesting results ! I guess if any of the races dont fill, then they can enter ?
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
cant these fillys enter races that would get them derby points like the wood or florida derby. its the connections choice to shoot for the oaks insted. or am i wrong
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
Fillies certainly can enter points races (Wood, Florida Derby, and many, many more). Their connections choose not to do so, though. If they want their fillies to possibly run in the Derby, they can easily place them in races that earn points.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Points system looks like it is working in more ways than 1. Crazy to put any filly in early in racing career against the boys sorry to say. IMO. Look at the last filly to run in the Belmont Rags to Riches. Yes she won, but she left it all there ...
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Yeah, like Winning Colors or Genuine Risk ever ran a good race after their first run against guys...., (Hint: they each won the Kentucky Derby in their second race vs. boys). Oh, I forgot - they raced when horses didn't rest for a month or more so they could come into big distance races 'fresh,' instead of racing fit.
Greg Hopper More than 1 year ago
Do you want 8 fillies in the race simply because they earned points against fillies?? The filly that Julia beat by 21 lengths would also qualify. Is that desirable?? Best to just stick to the points system and if a filly runs against colts then she can earn points...
Philip C More than 1 year ago
Just think, the last filly to win the Derby did it the right way. Winning Colors won the 1988 Santa Anita Derby and would have qualified under the current points system.
Philip C More than 1 year ago
Just think, the last filly to win the Derby did it the right way. Winning Colors won the 1988 Santa Anita Derby and would have qualified under the current points system.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Non of you want to see the best in the gate ? Point system or no point system if connections would like to run her in derby she has earned it on the track off her last . Clearly one of the top 20 three year olds in training. Hands down.
Mark More than 1 year ago
More than half of you drooling over orb ta boot. He would have been eating her dirt Saturday.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
You have no way of knowing that. Two different races, two different race dynamics. Ever seen a $10K claimer who can run a hole in the wind on the lead with his fellows, but wilts like yesterday's day-lily when he tries it with $20K stock?
Jesse Meenaghan More than 1 year ago
A crime not allow Julia to compete. It's like if there was an All Star game but the crowd was told Jordan would not be playing in it because he missed a game against the Nuggets. However he will be seen in the Rookie vs. Sophomore game.
JHart More than 1 year ago
Um.... Not a very good comparison at all. Jordan is arguably the greatest of all time. If he were a derby hopeful, I'm pretty sure Jordan would have ran in at least one derby prep. I would love to see Julia run in the derby too. But the real crime you're talking about is her onnections not even giving her a chance at the derby. They were well aware of the points system coming into the year. It's not like this points chase was justsprung on them last week and they were ddiscriminated against. Truth be told, they could have entered her in the derby prep on the same card, but they chose not to.
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
couldnt she have entered the florida derby and maybe have gotten points towards the derby
JHart More than 1 year ago
Greg Hopper More than 1 year ago
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Julia a very nice filly. Being in the gate surrounded by colts might not be a good idea early for her people. Let her grow up . What's the rush? Just because she demolished them in her last should let her do it again against fillies. She could not do it against the colts even if she ran 2 seconds faster....
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Also, her two-turn form before last weekend was all that great; in fact, this race was a huge improvement for her. Her connections hadn't been thinking Derby for her because frankly she hadn't been winning, even against fillies, as a 3yo. Because of a combination of events - how the surface suited him/her, the way he/she felt on the day, how the competition felt on the day, many other intangibles, sometimes a horse can run a magnificent race, unlike anything it has run before, and, oftentimes, unlike anything they do afterwards. Bellamy Road in the Wood, for example. Whether Julia falls into this category, we can't tell until she runs again.
Ricky Williams More than 1 year ago
The best is out west. The rest out east is just filler.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Ricky must be back on the wacky tabacky.
Rosie More than 1 year ago
if the derby were this weekend i would go with Orb and Revolutionary,1,2-you can toss Lines of Battle..those runners can't adapt quickly enough to the U.S. dirt running/racing style..i would have shipped him over the very next day to Churchill...the west coast runners are a farce as usual-Baffert always has very good runners up until the final moments and they usually disappoint-Revolutionary,showed a lot to have won over that winter course at the Big A and then win at that long stretch at the Fairgrounds... and as for Orb..there ain't many horses who can win off the pace at Gulfstream like he did ...then run a different style in the Fla.derby..both those 2 runners appear to be the best bets at the moment
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
West coast runners are a farce ? LMAO..stick to doing the dishes and make sure the laundry is done.