04/01/2013 2:16PM

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.

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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