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Apr 12, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB

By: JOE GIRARDI


               We are getting ever closer to the first Saturday in May and the big Kentucky Derby Preps are coming fast and furious. Over the weekend of April 6th there were two major Derby preps. The Wood Memorial run at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby run at Santa Anita. Both of these races were run over 1 and 1/8th miles and both carried 100, 40, 20 and 10 points as the breakdown for the top four finishers. The Wood Memorial carried a purse of $1 million dollars and the Santa Anita Derby carried a purse of $750,000.

               The Wood Memorial featured a field of 10 horses with the undefeated VERRAZANO going off as the 4-5 favorite. He was coming off a three length win in the Tampa Bay Derby after dominating his first two starts. VYJACK, another undefeated three year old heading into the race was sent off as the second choice  at 3-1 and NORMANDY INVASION coming off a tough trip in the Risen Star was the third choice in the race at 7-2. When the gates opened, most of the field broke cleanly except for the two outside runners, GOT GET THE BASIL who looked like he beat the gate by just a bit and FREEDOM CHILD who was held by the assistant starter and came out very slowly. As the rest of the field moved around the clubhouse turn, 77-1 longshot CHRISANDTHECAPPER led the way over VERRAZANO through some very slow fractions of 24:4, 49:3, 1:13:3. As the field moved around the far turn, VERRAZANO took over from that longshot while not being asked but was quickly challenged by VYJACK. As they entered the lane VERRAZANO was clear by about a length with VYJACK right on his flank, NORMANDY INVASION had moved out into the lane and was making his run. As they neared the wire, VERRAZANO started to edge away from VYJACK and held a fast closing NORMANDY INVASION safe to score by ¾’s of a length while never really being asked for his best by jockey John Velazquez. NORMANDY INVASION got up for second over VYJACK who was almost four lengths clear of MR PALMER who checked in fourth. The final time of the race was 1:50:1, a respectable time considering the slow early splits. Going forward to the Derby, jockey John Velazquez, who was injured in a spill the following day will be ready to ride for the Kentucky Derby. He had a decision to make concerning his Derby mount and he has committed to VERRAZANO over Florida Derby winner ORB. Javier Castellano also made his Derby choice, choosing NORMANDY INVASION over Louisiana Derby winner REVOLUTIONARY. Joel Rosario, has the mount back on ORB and Garret Gomez has picked up the mount on VYJACK.

               A field of 8 went postward in the Santa Anita Derby after the scratch of HEAR THE GHOST who would have been second choice in the race. FLASHBACK, a Bob Baffert trainee was sent off as the even money favorite with SUPER NINETY NINE, another Baffert trainee going off as the second choice at 9-2. As the field broke from the gate, SUPER NINETY NINE and jockey Martin Garcia was sent to the lead and got to the rail before they entered the backstretch. He was being tracked throughout by GOLDENCENTS through fractions of 22:3, 46:2, 1:10:2. As they moved around the far turn, GOLDENCENTS moved up to challenge the leader as FLASHBACK loomed in behind those two. As they moved into the lane GOLDENCENTS took over from SUPER NINETY NINE with FLASHBACK the only one with a shot. As they drew closer to the wire, GOLDENCENTS and jockey Kevin Krigger edged away from FLASHBACK who finished second by more than eight lengths. SUPER NINETY NINE held on for third over TIZ A MINISTER who closed to finish fourth. GOLDENCENTS is trained by Doug O’Neill, who had I’ll HAVE ANOTHER, last year’s Derby and Preakness winner. He is owned in part by Rick Pitino, whose Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship a few days later. GOLDENCENTS, like I’LL HAVE ANOTHER has some tactical speed and now has won going 1 and 1/8th miles. FLASHBACK, the beaten favorite came out of the race with a small chip in his knee. He is expected to make a full recovery after surgery.

               There are two more major prep races for the Derby left, they are the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and the Blue Grass at Keeneland, both of these races will be run on April 13th. The Lexington and Derby Trial also remain but those races only carry 20, 8, 4, 2 points for the top four finishers.



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