04/11/2011 2:07PM

Kentucky Derby: Toby's Corner's owners revel in Wood Memorial upset

Barbara D. Livingston
Toby's Corner runs down Arthur's Tale and Uncle Mo to win the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Dianne Cotter and her husband Julian were watching a recording of Saturday’s Wood Memorial early Monday afternoon at their home near Gainesville, Fla. Over and over again.

“The only thing they’re talking about is Uncle Mo and how inferior everybody else is,” said Diane Cotter, who interrupted her repeated viewing of the race to take a phone call. “Which makes it all the better.”

The Cotters are the owners and breeders of Toby’s Corner who ran past both Uncle Mo and then Arthur’s Tale in the last 50 yards to win the $1 million Wood by a neck and earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs. The win came six years after Bellamy Road, a horse the Cotters bred but sold at auction to George Steinbrenner’s Kinsman Stable, won the Wood by 17 1/2 lengths over the same Aqueduct dirt surface.

“That was a high ride for us, that was the first really great horse that we had bred,” Dianne Cotter said Monday. “How lucky can you be? You get one great horse in your life, you think that’s it. I’m not comparing Toby to Bellamy yet; he’s certainly a nice horse. We’ll see if he can be a great horse.”

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Toby’s Corner will be given the opportunity to do what his father could not – win the Kentucky Derby. Bellamy Road, the 5-2 favorite in the 2005 Derby, finished seventh behind Giacomo after chasing a hot early pace.

Unlike his father, who at times displayed exceptional speed, Toby’s Corner does his best running late. In the Wood, Toby’s Corner got shuffled back to last at the half-mile pole and still had just one horse beat at the quarter pole. Jockey Eddie Castro guided Toby’s Corner into the three path turning for home then had to alter course one path further out when Norman Asbjornson cut in front of him at the three-sixteenths pole. Outside of Toby’s Corner was Arthur’s Tale, who made the lead over Uncle Mo at the sixteenth pole before Toby’s Corner ran down Arthur’s Tale.

“It was a very impressive race,” Cotter said. “He could have said ‘the heck with this, guys.’ Eddie Castro certainly did ride him well, patient, staying on the inside. I was certainly glad to see the replays, which obviously we did 100 times. When he finally got going, he had a good burst of speed.”

Due to the 20-horse field the Derby usually has, Cotter expressed some reservations about running Toby’s Corner in the race, but she said she will do whatever trainer Graham Motion wants to do, and Motion said after the Wood that the Derby is in the plans.

“He certainly deserves to go, but do we really want him to go?” Cotter said. “The best horse does not usually win the Derby. Too many horses, it’s too crowded. Whatever Graham wants to do, we’ll do.”

Motion does feel his horse will benefit from the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. He also thinks his horse will benefit from having already had four races this year, experience most of his competitors have eschewed.

“I think that’s going to help the Derby horses, to get some seasoning,” Motion said. “It helps them get the mile and a quarter.”

Motion added that Toby’s Corner will do all his major training at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland before shipping to Louisville the week of the race.

Morning Line to Met Mile, Whitney

Nick Zito was the trainer of Bellamy Road and said he spoke to Dianne Cotter earlier this winter about possibly buying Toby’s Corner. Zito also is the trainer of Dialed In, the Florida Derby winner, who could end up being the Kentucky Derby favorite come post time May 7.

While Zito watched the Wood with interest from south Florida, he was far more interested in the Grade 1 Carter – held 33 minutes earlier – which he won with Morning Line. The 4-year-old son of Tiznow had twice finished second in Grade 1 races, including a head loss in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“He’s a well-deserving Grade 1 horse,” Zito said Monday from Palm Meadows. “He’s as versatile as they come.”

Zito was referring to the fact that Morning Line also won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at 1 1/8 miles as a 3-year-old.

Zito is pointing Morning Line to the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 30 and then hopefully the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 6.

Fawkes has ammunition for New York

Trainer David Fawkes plans to have 30 horses in New York this summer, and it was evident Saturday that he has the stock to compete.

Fawkes won the Grade 3, $150,000 Comely Stakes with Hot Summer and finished second to Morning Line in the Carter with Apriority, who was beaten 1 1/2 lengths in his graded stakes debut.

Fawkes was naturally pleased with both of his horses’ performances and acknowledged that those efforts give him confidence that his horses will fit on the New York circuit.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It gives you a leg up to get people to notice you’re there.”

Fawkes said he was not sure where Hot Summer would run next but mentioned the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan on May 20 at Pimlico as a possibility. Hot Summer remained in New York, while Apriority shipped back to Calder, where Fawkes is currently based. It is there that Apriority will train for the Grade 2, $300,000 Churchill Downs Stakes at seven furlongs on Derby Day.

Fawkes’s big horse, champion sprinter Big Drama, will likely remain Florida until early summer. His next target is the Summit of Speed in July.

J J’s Lucky Train eyeing Jerome

Trainer Bill Anderson definitely wants to run Bay Shore Stakes winner J J’s Lucky Train in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes going seven furlongs at Belmont on June 11, Belmont Stakes Day. But he may not want to wait that long to run his talented 3-year-old sprinter.

That’s why Anderson will carefully monitor how J J’s Lucky Train is doing the next two weeks to see if he is able to wheel back in the Jerome, a one-turn mile race on April 23, closing day at Aqueduct.

“There’s not too much between now and [the Woody Stephens],” Anderson said by phone from Parx Racing, where he is based. “The Jerome comes back pretty quick, but that could be a possibility.”

J J’s Lucky Train earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for the Bay Shore.

Life At Ten to Shuvee

Uncle Mo’s third-place finish as the 1-9 favorite in the Wood Memorial was not the only disappointment for trainer Todd Pletcher over the weekend. Life At Ten, his Grade 1-winning mare from 2010, finished second, beaten five lengths, in an allowance race Sunday at Gulfstream.

The race was the first for Life At Ten since the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, a race in which she never got out of a gallop while being distanced.

On Sunday, Life At Ten found herself in a duel between horses and was no match for The Isabella Angel, who beat her by five lengths. Life At Ten did show some grit to get up for second by a nose over Jehan.

“We didn’t get exactly the trip we were hoping, she kind of got bottled up between two horses and was under pressure for quite a while,” Pletcher said. “It looked like she showed some interest down the lane and was game to finish second. It should set her up moving forward.”

Pletcher said Life At Ten would run back in the Grade 2 Shuvee at Belmont on May 21 and the Ogden Phipps, also at Belmont, on June 18.

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