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Apr 11, 2014

AMERICAN TURF LEAD-WOOD MEMORIAL AND SANTA ANITA DERBY

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Two of the major Kentucky Derby preps were run on Saturday April 5th, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita.

               There was a field of 10 that went postward in the Wood Memorial when Kid Cruz was scratched the day before because of a sore shoulder. The Wood Memorial was run over 1 and 1/8th miles and carried a purse of $1 million dollars. The favorite in the race was Social Inclusion, who was undefeated in his first two starts both at Gulfstream Park and his most recent effort was in track record time. Breaking from the far outside post 10, Social Inclusion under jockey Luis Contreras didn’t break sharply but quickly recovered and moved up to stalk the leaders. Schivarelli, another who was undefeated in two starts was sent to the lead under jockey Javier Castellano with Samraat sitting second and Social Inclusion raced in third. As they moved into the backstretch, Schivarelli was still in front but Social Inclusion moved up alongside to challenge through fractions of 23:3, 47:2, 1:11 flat. As they moved into the far turn, Social Inclusion took over that lead from Schivarelli with Samraat moving into third and Wicked Strong into fourth. As they entered the lane, Social Inclusion held the lead by about 1 and ½ lengths, Samraat and Schivarelli was still right there in second and third and Wicked Strong, under jockey Rajiv Maragh moved into the middle of the track and began to close in. Inside the 1/8th pole, Wicked Strong, was strong, took over and drew away for the win by more than three lengths. Samraat, previously unbeaten in five prior starts, raced on his wrong lead through most of the stretch and was able to get up by a nose for second after changing over to his correct lead very late. Social Inclusion ran well in defeat, pressing the pace from a tough post, taking over the lead and just getting tired very late to finish a good third as the 8-5 favorite. The final time of the race was a solid 1:49:1 with the last 1/8th of a mile coming under 13 seconds. Wicked Strong, ran his record to 2 for 2 and that was his biggest win of his career by far. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, this three year old by Hard Spun has a big shot in Kentucky and I like the way he is coming into the race. As far as Kentucky Derby points, the Wood offered 100, 40, 20 and 10 to the first four finishers.

               The Santa Anita Derby was run over 1 and 1/8th miles and carried a purse of $1 million dollars as well. There was a field of eight horses that went postward with the odds-on favorite, California Chrome going off as the 3-5 favorite based on his three race winning streak, most recently an easy win in the San Felipe. When they broke from the gate, California Chrome didn’t get the best of breaks but quickly recovered and got a good stalking trip in second behind 33-1 longshot Dublin Up, a maiden who was sent hard to the lead from post 8. As they moved around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch, Dublin Up and California Chrome set fractions of 22:4, 47, 1:10:4. As they moved around the far turn and into the stretch, California Chrome took over the lead with second choice Candy Boy moving up on the outside and Hoppertunity right in behind in fourth. Into the lane California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza opened up that lead under mild urging and drew away to score by more than five lengths, Hoppertunity, the winner of the Rebel at Oaklawn checking in a clear second and Candy Boy battled back to get up for third over the pacesetter Dublin Up. The final time of the race was a solid 1:47:2 with the last 1/8th of a mile going in 12:2. California Chrome is a Cal bred that has really improved since late last year and has dispatched his last two fields with consummate ease. However, going into the Derby, can he get 1 and ¼ miles, can he stalk sharp fractions and still have the same kick, have the fields he has been facing inferior to the other Derby preps? These are all good questions that will be answered on the first Saturday in May and at this time he will probably be the favorite. Hoppertunity ran on well for second and is another on the improve, third place finisher, Candy Boy didn’t really run his race and may not be ready right now for the top three year olds. This race also offered 100, 40, 20 and 10 points to the top four finishers.

               With only two major prep races left and three in total we are only three weeks away from the Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Blue Grass at Keeneland will be run on Saturday April 5th with the Lexington coming on April 19th at Keeneland.



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