Racing News

Eskendereya heading back to Palm Meadows

| Brisnet Editorial | 04/05/2010 #
  • Eskendereya has claimed the mantle of Derby favorite. Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese.

From Sunday's NYRA notes:

A little more than 12 hours after his smashing 9 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial S. (G1), ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) was on his way back to Florida, where he will spend the next couple of weeks preparing for his likely role as the favorite for the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1).

"I like the surface at Palm Meadows, as does he," trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning. "And, the weather will be more reliable there."

The trainer said he plans to send Eskendereya to Churchill Downs 10 days before Derby, a race in which Pletcher is 0-24. This year, Pletcher could have a half-dozen or more starters in the Derby, with Eskendereya the most prominent member of the "Todd Squad."

"We'll just try to keep him happy," Pletcher said. "We'll keep doing what we have been doing. We're not going to try and get creative."

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito reported Sunday morning that Wood Memorial runner-up JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil) exited the race in good order and will most likely depart for Churchill Downs in a few days.

"He'll probably just hang out here for a couple of days, and then I'll make arrangements for him to go to Kentucky," said Zito, adding that he loved the way the compact colt fought back in the stretch to outgame AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again) for second place in the 1 1/8-mile race.

"He ran really great," Zito said. "The other horse (winner Eskendereya) is just in another league right now. It's sad, because that was a really thrilling race -- for second."

The trainer also pointed out that a number of horses who ran in the Wood and did not win went on to take the Kentucky Derby, among them the Zito-trained Go for Gin, who finished second to Irgun in the 1994 Wood and then won the Derby.

"A lot of horses ran second in the Wood and ran good in the Derby -- Go for Gin, Funny Cide (2003) -- so you never know," said Zito, who also won the Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold.

Awesome Act, third in the Wood Memorial, will continue preparations for the Kentucky Derby at Belmont Park, where he has been stabled since an impressive victory in last month's Gotham S. (G3).

"We'll train here until about five days before the Derby, then ship down to Kentucky," said Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda, who is based at Newmarket in England and trains Awesome Act for Mrs. Susan Roy and Vinery Stables.

No worse for the wear after an eventful trip in the Wood in which he stumbled out of the gate and lost a shoe in the process, the chestnut colt was resting comfortably in his stall at Belmont Sunday morning. 

"He's come out of it well," Tanner said. "He couldn't wait to get into his grub last night. He's a very relaxed horse, and about the only thing that gets him going is the sound of his feed being poured into the bin."

Awesome Act was beaten just a head for second by Jackson Bend, and Tanner said he thought the colt's troubles at the start had probably cost him the place. 

The Wood Memorial was only the second start on dirt for Awesome Act, who won the Gotham following a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Santa Anita last fall, in which he closed late and missed third by a half-length. 

"We'll let him have an easy couple of days and move on from there," Tanner said.