The “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” continues Saturday with the 89th running of the $1 million Wood Memorial (Grade I) and the 76th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (GI).
As part of the Second Leg of the Championship Series, the Top 4 finishers in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park will be awarded points on a scale of 100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
There are no sure things in racing, but this much is known: Storm Fighter will be a long shot Saturday when he starts in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif.
Orb and Revolutionary were the big winners last weekend, taking the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby, respectively, but neither was overly impressive: Orb completed the 1 1/8-mile distance two seconds slower than the filly Dreaming of Julia earlier on the program and Revolutionary got away tardily and didn't have his mind on business the entire way.
A contentious field of nine has been assembled to go nine furlongs in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast's major prep for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Whoever wins the race is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate under the Twin Spires via the 100 points awarded in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
In the unscientific polls that were the three Kentucky Derby Future Wagers, horseplayers across the country expressed the belief that Verrazano was the single individual wagering interest most likely to be draped with roses on the first Saturday in May. A confirmation of that opinion is four weeks away, but the lightly-raced colt can build on an already growing bandwagon of support with a victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial.
Mylute, who finished a neck behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) after a thrilling stretch battle, passed through the Churchill Downs stable gate at 3:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) Tuesday morning after vanning from Fair Grounds and was bedded down in Stall 20 of Barn 29 for trainer Tom Amoss.
Juvenile colt champion Shanghai Bobby will be given some time off following his fifth-place finish in Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and is no longer in consideration for the Kentucky Derby.
From a physical standpoint, Shanghai Bobby appears to have come out of the Florida Derby in good shape. However, according to trainer Todd Pletcher, his energy level is not where he'd like for it to be.
A full gate of 14 three-year-olds likely will be the order of the day for the 89th running of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, the centerpiece of Keeneland's 16-day spring meet, to be run April 13.
With 170 points available in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series with 100 points going to the winner, the Blue Grass represents one of the final major steps toward the starting gate for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4. Second place is worth 40 points, with 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
Flashback will be the favorite on Jon White's Santa Anita Derby morning line when those odds are issued following Wednesday's draw for post positions.
"As soon as Hear the Ghost won the San Felipe, I immediately started to think about the morning line for the Santa Anita Derby," White said. "And my initial thought was, 'Well, it looks like Hear the Ghost is probably going to be the Santa Anita Derby favorite.'
Power Broker, one of three likely starters for Bob Baffert in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, worked four furlongs in company Sunday morning in :47 2/5 for the West Coast's major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
Martin Garcia was aboard the Pulpit colt, who tied for the fourth-fastest work at the distance on Santa Anita's fast main track. Workmate Bank the Eight was clocked in :47 4/5.
Undefeated Verrazano worked five furlongs in 1:01.17 Sunday morning over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, completing his major preparations for an expected start in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Shug McGaughey made the trip to Payson Park Sunday morning to check on Orb, who was rather bright for a late-developing colt who had just outrun nine rivals to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park late Saturday afternoon.
"I'm kind of surprised how well he bounced out of his race, to tell you the truth," McGaughey said.
Itsmyluckyday was "110 percent" Sunday morning back in his stall in trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.'s Calder barn following his game runner-up effort as the 8-5 favorite under jockey Elvis Trujillo in Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby.
"I really wanted to win the Florida Derby," sighed Plesa, who trains Itsmyluckyday for the Trilogy Stable and his wife, Laurie. "I expected him to win and he didn't. Am I disappointed? Yes, but I'm also proud of him too. He's done everything we've asked.
Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable's homebred Orb bided his time in midpack before moving up on the outside of the dueling Merit Man and Itsmyluckyday in the lane of Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby to take command and draw off for a 2 3/4-length win.
The Shug McGaughey trainee continued jockey John Velazquez's stellar afternoon at Gulfstream Park, handing his rider a fifth win on the day as he paid $7.80, $3.80 and $3.40 as the near 3-1 third choice.
WinStar Farm's Revolutionary gamely fended off a stretch challenge from 19-1 longshot Mylute to land the centennial running of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher a third graded stakes win on the day at Fair Grounds and fifth overall on what was a tremendous day for the multiple Eclipse Award-winning conditioner.
Lines of Battle, one of only two American Triple Crown nominees in Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby, drove to a 1 1/2-length victory to earn 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Owned by breeder Joseph Allen in partnership with Coolmore principals Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the War Front colt gave Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien his second straight score in the classic.
On a picture-perfect Friday morning, dual Grade 3 star Goldencents had his final major drill for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6 when going six furlongs on the fast main dirt at the Arcadia, California, track in a bullet 1:14.
It was the fastest of nine moves at the distance, the average time of which was 1:16 1/5. Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was aboard the bay son of Into Mischief, who looks to improve on his disappointing fourth-place finish last out in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 9.
Undefeated three-year-olds Verrazano and Vyjack are expected to head the field for the 89th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6, Aqueduct Racetrack's final major prep for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Verrazano won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined margin of 24 lengths, and heads into the 1 1/8-mile Wood off a commanding three-length victory on March 9 in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the More Than Ready colt will again have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the Wood.
The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” concluded last weekend and now it’s on to the Second Leg, which is composed of the seven most meaningful springboard events in advance of America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby.
After more than three decades in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding business, Evelyn Benoit isn’t shy about her convictions. Ask her about her star 3-year-old, Sunbean, who is scheduled to compete Saturday in the $1 million Louisiana Derby, and Benoit, a Louisianan through and through, offers that her horse is good enough to run in another, more prestigious Derby – the Kentucky Derby.