04/07/2013 5:26PM

Kentucky Derby: Verrazano heads Wood Memorial trio heading to Louisville

Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez has to decide whether he wants to ride Wood Memorial winner Verrazano (above) or Florida Derby winner Orb in the Kentucky Derby.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -  Led by undefeated Verrazano, the top three finishers from Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct will all head to Churchill Downs early to begin preparing for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Verrazano, who may have stamped himself the Derby favorite with his three-quarter length victory in the Wood, and runner-up Normandy Invasion will fly to Kentucky next Sunday, their connections said. Verrazano received a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance in the Wood.

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

Vyjack, who suffered his first loss when finishing third, beaten one length, will also go early though it was uncertain whether he would be on that flight or not.

An endoscopic examination performed on Vyjack following the Wood showed mucus in his lungs and he will be treated with antibiotics for three or four days, according to trainer Rudy Rodriguez. It had originally been reported that Vyjack had bled, but Rodriguez and owner David Wilkenfeld clarified late Sunday morning that it was mucus and not blood.

 Despite their strong Derby credentials, none of top three Wood finishers had firm commitments from their riders regarding the Derby. John Velazquez said Sunday morning that he is hoping to get as much time as possible before deciding whether to ride Verrazano - undefeated in all four starts - or Orb, whom Velazquez rode to victories in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth.

 Then, Velazquez went down in the seventh race Sunday at Aqueduct went his horse Katie Malone, clipped heels with a horse in front of him. Velazquez was taken to North Shore University Hospital complaining of pain to his shoulder.

 In 2006, Velazquez broke his right shoulder blade in a spill at Keeneland and missed the Kentucky Derby. Last June, Velazquez broke his right collarbone and missed six weeks.

 Provided Velazquez is healthy enough to ride, he said Sunday morning it will be a difficult decision not only because both horses “are very talented” but the two are trained by long-time clients Todd Pletcher (Verrazano) and Shug McGaughey (Orb).

“They’re my two main clients for the last 12, 13 years,” Velazquez said Sunday morning after working a trio of horses for Pletcher at Belmont Park. “I’m very lucky. They’re very, very understanding where I’m standing and everybody knows something happens to the horses anyway.”

 Velazquez’s only Derby win came in 2011 when he picked up Animal Kingdom after Uncle Mo scratched and Robby Albarado, named on Animal Kingdom, was taken off by Team Valor after he got kicked in the face by a horse a few days before the race.

 Verrazano was reported to have come out of the race in good order, by assistant trainer Michael McCarthy.

 Javier Castellano rode Normandy Invasion for the first time in the Wood Memorial and got him up for second, likely earning enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby.

 Last week, Castellano rode Revolutionary to victory in the Louisiana Derby. Castellano and his agent, Matt Muzikar, were to talk Sunday or Monday to discuss their options, according to Muzikar.

 Chad Brown, trainer of Normandy Invasion, said he hopes to have Castellano.

“Our main focus is to retain Javier,” Brown said Sunday morning. “If it becomes apparent for whatever reason we can’t then we’ll begin the process of deciding who we think fits the horse along with who’s actually available.”

 Rodriguez, the trainer of Vyjack, said other than the mucus, his horse came out of the Wood “very good” and he hopes to secure the services of Joel Rosario, who, according to Rodriguez, spoke very highly of Vyjack after the race.

 “He was very optimistic, He thought the race would help him for the Derby,” Rodriguez said. “He seems like he wanted to ride the horse.”

 Despite Vyjack suffering his first loss, Rodriguez remained high on his gelding.

 “I definitely wouldn’t change places with anybody. I think my horse is a very good horse,” he said.





Alex More than 1 year ago
This horse is regressing, add another 1/8th of a mile and he will be looking for a place to lay down in the stretch.
Kevin More than 1 year ago
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
Based on recent history : V competes in Breeders Cup 0% V races at 'toga 5% V last the whole Triple Crown 10% V races again after Derby 50% If he doesn't run well in KD,I see him retiring with a "minor injury". Especially with Pletcher being trainer
Mark More than 1 year ago
Nice positive comment . Pleasant.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Those seem like reasonable odds to me.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Does this make you feel good ? Trying to figure out what is the point ? Or just to be negative ? Pletcher hater ?
Perl More than 1 year ago
I think you are taking his estimate a bit personal, Mark. If you looked at Pletcher stats in the past decade or so, he's probably not far off base.
Mark More than 1 year ago
I think he is a hater perl .
Mark More than 1 year ago
Verrazano ran enough to win. Put up a 95 and won easy. All who knock he s sitting on a huge one ......
Perl More than 1 year ago
Not sure I believe he is sitting on a race, especially a 10f race at Churchill Downs. He topped out in his second career start and hasn't gone back to that number. It also was a one-turn race. He definitely can route though.
Mark More than 1 year ago
So he beat an unbeaten and a highly thought of brown horse with a career second low beyer going 1 1/8 hand ridden while settling well off slow fractions . He has shown triple digit already going 2 turns. The wood couldn't have been any better of a set up.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Yes, he can settle and he can handle two turns. I think he can hit the board in Lou-ville, but I also think he'll be an underlay and I think he'll be leg weary in the final furlong. The Derby pace is almost always honest (or suicidal). I think 9f is about as far as he wants to run. Normandy galloped out 10 lengths in front of him. As for Vijack, I think we saw that his limitation is about 8.5f.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Gallop out doesn't pay. My point was he did what he needed and showed he can rate kindly. Beat chad while he was all out. V has shown he can run 10 lengths faster @ 1 1/16 . As for the 1 1/4 chad gonna need to work out a trip too. Also he was much closer to pace than he was in any of his previous races. I think he s a tri super player . Remember dialed in ? And you are just assuming off last he will tire . Vz should get position easy into first turn as long as he is not first few posts.I say he gets it . You say he doesn't. As far as underlay . It will be chad brown and or O'Neil or orb who will be over bet. Off his last Verrazano actually helped his office with all the people like you knocking his WINNING effort.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Mark More than 1 year ago
Is 4/5-1 an underlay on an undeafeted horse who has great running style for the 20 horse Derby field and handled the likely 3 rd choice(NI) in his previous start with a b effort ?
Perl More than 1 year ago
You will recall when we spoke last week I said I thought Normandy was in the exacta and I thought the most likely result was 8-2. As for the Derby I will gladly wager against VZ if he is the lukewarm 4-1 favorite. Definitely not in the 1-hole for me. But you disagree and you might be right. Time will tell.
Kim Lee More than 1 year ago
This race shows Verrazano's decline as he step's up the ladder
Mike Rutledge More than 1 year ago
Without mucus I think Yyjack would have won.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Everyone needs to keep in mind there is a horse running next Sat in the Arkansas Derby - Overanalyze, that will upset all your apple carts if he makes it in and the Kentucky Derby is run on a sloppy track. Check that long range forecast - it calls for rain and lots of it the first 7 days in May for Louisville. When I picked this horse last year for my future I was envisioning an off track. Looks like I will get it.
Eddie Cruz More than 1 year ago
Overanalyze....REALLY....Listen Verrazano will sprint to the front, get position on the out side and avoid all the crazy pinching and bumping that happens every Derby. In the Arkansas Baffert is sending out my Sleeper for the Derby "War Academy". In the Blue Grass Pletcher team is giving Palice Malice a final shot. I know you guys saw the La Derby and would agree that Prado and Palice Malice had that one. Anyway, I just gave you guys the 2 winners in the upcoming races....
Mark More than 1 year ago
Agree on palace Malice
tommy tutone More than 1 year ago
Wow! Ever consider a career on the weather channel?
mikey J More than 1 year ago
Normandy Invasion closed like a train into those pedestrian fractions. The added distance should be no problem at all. He looked to be just leveling out as they hit the wire. Castellano would be wise to choose this mount. However, will he want to alienate himself from the Pletcher barn. I think not. Then again the Derby is not just any race. I would love to see Cornelio pick up a Derby mount. He is riding lights out recently and would be an asset in the absense of Javier.
Dave More than 1 year ago
NI had to have run 36 flat for the last three furlongs!
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
I was not very impressed with Verrazano's win saturday in the Wood. I think Orb will run them all down at Churchill in The Derby. The ARK Derby will determine the last few details as Oxbow is high on my list...
Jason More than 1 year ago
Let's be honest.........Pletcher doesn't win with the cameras on him for a reason, and his protege Chad Brown is likely not gonna "benefit" from the spotlight either. From where Verrazano was on the track with what he was facing in front of him, compared to what the others were dealing with behind him, he should have drew off. He did not. Pletcher, the longer distance, and a likely more difficult trip do not add up to a winner Derby, NO WAY.
nysteve27 More than 1 year ago
Um Jason, Chad Brown is not Pletchers protege, he worked for Frankel
Jason More than 1 year ago
My bad..........but is there a difference? lol. Uh, NOOOOOOO!