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Kentucky Derby: Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial next regional tests
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.
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.
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
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
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.
One of the better prep races. Pace scenario = important.
last time baffert had 4, three of them ran in the top 4.
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.
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 !
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 ?
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.
The best is out west. The rest out east is just filler.
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