03/11/2013 2:58PM

Kentucky Derby trail: Weekend's winners get focused

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Emily Shields
Hear the Ghost (5), with Corey Nakatani riding, wins the San Felipe over Flashback..

ARCADIA, Calif. – While Verrazano on Saturday was reconfirming his position as the ante-post favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby with his easy victory in the Tampa Bay Derby, the depth chart on the West Coast took on a new look as Hear the Ghost upset the previously unbeaten Flashback and highly regarded Goldencents in the San Felipe Stakes here at Santa Anita.

All the major principals were reported by their barns as having emerged from their races in good condition, but with the Derby drawing ever closer, a lot of maturity will have to happen in a hurry, as those four – Verrazano, Hear the Ghost, Flashback, and Goldencents – are scheduled for just one more prep each.

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

Verrazano and Hear the Ghost both were making their two-turn and graded-stakes debuts in their third lifetime starts, and both passed their tests. Flashback and Goldencents will have more to answer next time – specifically, can they harness their natural speed and talent over the required distance?

Verrazano returned to the Palm Meadows training center after his brief visit to Tampa and will now be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6 at Aqueduct, trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday morning.

Pletcher, speaking from the 2-year-olds in training sale in Ocala, Fla., said it is “90 percent certain” Verrazano would run in the Wood. His other options are the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 30 and the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 13, but he described the chances of running in either of those races as “5 percent each.”

“The Wood is the logical choice,” Pletcher said.

Hear the Ghost, Flashback, and Goldencents all are scheduled for a rematch in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, according to their trainers, Jerry Hollendorfer, Bob Baffert, and Doug O'Neill, respectively

The Wood and the Santa Anita Derby are worth 170 points – with 100 to the winner – under the new system put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility to the Derby should the field, as expected, have more than the maximum 20 entrants. The Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe were worth 85 points, with 50 to the winner.

With eyes locked on the points list, Pletcher on Monday said that Overanalyze, who was fifth in the Gotham in his 3-year-old debut, is under serious consideration for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby on March 24 instead of the Wood, in which he would have to face stablemate Verrazano.

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

If Overanalyze does runs at Sunland, he would be able to retain regular rider John Velazquez, who rides Verrazano. In addition, the Sunland race – worth 85 points overall – is six weeks before the Derby, so Overanalyze could conceivably race again, perhaps in the Arkansas Derby, if necessary.

Also, Capo Bastone, whom Pletcher had been targeting for the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel Stakes this Saturday at Oaklawn, will instead wait another week and run in the Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 23. Both the Rebel and Spiral are worth 85 points overall.

The Rebel is expected to have a large field, though the defections of Capo Bastone and Park City, who ran in the Tampa Bay Derby, reduced the number of likely entrants. Super Ninety Nine, the Southwest winner, is scheduled to head back to Oaklawn from California for the Rebel for Baffert. Another California-based Rebel contender, Treasury Bill, worked a half-mile in 48 seconds Monday morning at Betfair Hollywood Park for trainer Ron Ellis
Ive Struck a Nerve, the longshot winner of the Risen Star, came off the Derby trail over the weekend after suffering a fractured sesamoid in his left front ankle in a workout at Fair Grounds in preparation for the Louisiana Derby.

Ive Struck a Nerve was scheduled to undergo surgery Monday at the Rood and Riddle equine hospital in Lexington, Ky. He is expected to be sidelined for perhaps six months.

Trainer Keith Desormeaux said Ive Struck a Nerve departed Fair Grounds by van early Sunday and was to be operated on by Dr. Larry Bramlage, the noted equine surgeon.

“Obviously, the whole ordeal is very disappointing,” said Desormeaux, who never had been close to having a Derby runner. “It doesn’t look like it’s career-threatening, and he’s not in peril. It’s the kind of injury that happens quite a bit in this game. The good news is we know we still have a nice horse.”

– additional reporting by Marty McGee