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Kentucky Derby trail: Weekend's winners get focused
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.
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.
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
how can the san flepie have faster times and have a beyer speed figure so much slower....somebody please explain
No prominent horses in the Blue Grass?
To all those speculating who Johnny V. would ride; Verrazano or ORB...your question has been somewhat answered.. ORB running in Florida Derby so Verrazano commits to Wood. Not solely due to Shanghai Bobby in Florida either..PLETCHERruns multiple horses in same races often.
Anyone else think that Krigger gave Goldencents a bad ride on Saturday? No need to jump to the lead so soon on the backstretch.
Annie and SR Vegas, Many thanks for the Super Ninety Nine info. It looks like a decent race to prove his worth. Talking of decent races, anyone with the slightest interest in steeplechasing will want to search out TV coverage of the Tuesday through Friday Cheltenham Festival. 4 days great racing, both fences and hurdles, a tremendous Anglo / Irish rivalry, it draws a total crowd around 200,000. The small town of Cheltenham is completely swamped for the 4 days, but the visitors spending power is a massive boost for the local economy. Think Saratoga's best week, but with bells on. Best Regards - Bernard Downes
There was only one (1) nine (9) furlong stakes race in the US of A on the weekend for 3 yr olds, and that was the Private Terms, won by the Mott colt, Mr. Palmer, who unleashed a strong kick to collar and pull away by 4 lengths in the stretch wrapped up under Junion Alvarado. This Pulpit colt out of a Quiet American mare will await the shippers into NY, undoubtedly, for the running of the Wood Memorial for his lay it all down on the line attempt to gain the qualifying points to get to the Derby starting gate. Keith L.