Santa Anita Derby & Wood Memorial preview

by TCI 5 years ago

Jon & Joel recap last weekend’s Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and UAE Derby, but did any performances affect the TCI Top 10? They also breakdown this Saturday’s ever-important Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G1), and let you know what to watch for from the top contenders in each race.

Watch it. Comment.

TCI Top 10

Rank Name Bris Comments
1 Revolutionary 105 Handled business in La. Derby, but will he regress or move forward now after the big effort off an 8-week layoff?
2 Verrazano 104 Outside draw in the Wood Memorial is ideal, so the stage is set for a big performance; No excuses Saturday.
3 Flashback 99 Rail draw in SA Derby should force him to prove that he can settle, take some dirt, and come from off the pace.
4 Orb 102 Impressive progression this winter in Florida, and feeling is that he has another forward step in him; Great Derby profile.
5 Oxbow 101 Another unlucky trip in the Rebel, but he’s proven his quality and figures to be even better going longer.
6 Itsmyluckyday 111 Couldn’t capitalize on a perfect trip in FL Derby, as late kick was clearly less explosive; Peaked too soon?
7 Vyjack 100 Shown versatility, a dynamic turn of foot, and the will to win; Needs it all against Verrazano in Wood.
8 War Academy 99 Intriguing Baffert colt possesses talent, a classic pedigree & style, and a seemingly high ceiling.
9 Will Take Charge 101 Liked the improvement this strapping, regally-bred colt showed in the Rebel, and expect him to only get better.
10 Mylute 105 Much-improved with blinkers off in La. Derby, and has the look of an improving colt that can handle the Derby trip.

OFF: Shanghai Bobby, Palace Malice
through 4/4/2013


  • 1JoeP

    Joel – Very impressed by Orb’s win in the Fla. Derby. He proved that he can win off of a hot pace or a slow pace. A very adaptable closer. My current top 5 are #1 Orb, #2 Verrazano, #3 Revolutionary, #4 Gov. Charlie, #5 Oxbow. My Future pool bets are centered around Orb and Oxbow, so I will be really cheering for these 2 on May 4. Sorry to hear the Hear the Ghost is off the Derby Trail. he was a real contender. I believe Flashback will bounce back and win the SA Derby. I agree with you that Normandy Invasion could make some noise in the Wood Memorial. Verrazano probably will roll, but I believe Normandy Invasion will be 2nd best. Verrazano’s biggest test will come on Derby day at 1 1/4. All of my top 5 horses should excel at 1 1/4. Unlike Vyjack and Verrazano. I know that VyJack is undefeated, but this is a deep Wood Field, and this will be a real acid test to show how good he really is. I really like Oxbow’s chances in the Derby to finish in the top 3, maybe even win the race. He has tactical speed, always fires, has the pedigree, and has a win over the CD track. He looks like a live longshot on Derby Day, and may be overlooked by the bettors. Oxbow has 36 points, and with the injury to Here The Ghost he moves up to #11 on the list with 4 major preps to go. After this week, if say 3 horses pass him on the list and he is #14, with only 2 preps to go, do you think that Lucas might train him up to the Derby off the 7 wks. rest, or run him in the Arkansas Derby with only the 3 wks. rest?

    • Joel Cunningham

      Hey Joe!

      Great analysis, I agree with it all. I know the connections of Normandy Invasion love him…they say he’s taken his workouts to another level. We’ll see..he has to show me

      I do believe Oxbow will run in the Ark Derby next weekend. Lukas is never one to wait, or one to be shy to run a horse, so I see know reason they would pass up an opportunity of probably being the favorite in a million dollar Grade 1 race that is the highlight of the Oaklawn meeting, which is where he obviously winters now. I do believe you are right that Oxbow is in with 36 points and does not need any more points. Unfortunately, injuries and attrition normally has an impact and we still have 4 weeks to go…let’s hope for the best, but more than likely others will not make it for whatever reason…so my guess is that if you have points in the 30s you are probably sitting good to make it into the Derby field. We’ll see!

  • JR

    Hi Joel,

    I was reading the Downey Profile, and it said that Pontiff was still a maiden. I like Dale Romans, but I can not understand why anyone would put a maiden in a grade one, my uncle and I were talking about this and we decided to ask you for your thoughts.


    • Joel Cunningham

      Hi JR!

      Derby Fever sums it up in two words. I agree it’s probably not what’s in the best interest of the horse, but Donegal had success running a maiden (I believe Dullahan was still a maiden) in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland a couple of years ago and winning it. Obviously, they had Paddy O’Prado and Dullahan in the last two KY Derbys, and wanted to have the chance to continue their run with a well-bred colt that possesses a great pedigree to handle the Classics…that colt is Pontiff, a $310,000 yearling purchase and half-brother to the late, great Pulpit.

      But the horse got beat 26+ lengths in the FL Derby just like the form said he would going into the race, so obviously it makes you question why they would put a horse in a race where he didn’t belong. I’m sure Jerry Crawford, Donegal’s racing manager (who I do not know but have heard is a very sharp guy) had interest from his partners to try and get back to the Derby…so they took a shot, which is something that regularly occurs in racing, obviously. And sometimes it can pay off. I will say in their defense that when they were likely planning for the FL Derby it was a couple weeks before the race when Gulfstream racing officials were STRUGGLING to generate interest due to the presence of champion Shanghai Bobby, the fast speed figures of Itsmyluckyday, and FOY winner Orb. The field size obviously grew, but the interest really came late with people like Donegal seeing possible opportunity of racing for a million dollars, a Grade 1 and a major Derby scoring race…well, the race quickly filled up with horses “taking a shot” 🙂

  • 1JoeP

    Hi Joel – Only 2 more major preps to go, then the top 20 for the Derby should be set. Verrazano did what he had to to win the Wood Memorial. But he didn’t blow anybody away. He certainly will have loads of competition in the Derby, and claiming the roses will not be such an easy task for this undefeated horse. Normandy Invasion was sharp, and closed late, and javier Castellano said his gallop out was super. Vyjack put in a good run, but in my opinion, he won’t be getting by N. Invasion or Verrazano in the Derby, not to mention Orb and Revolutionary, who are well suited for the Derby distance and are both Major players. Flashback dissapointed and the gutsy Goldencents surprised. I still would be amazed to see Goldencents hitting the board in the derby, too much quality competition of horses that will relish 1 1/4. Flashback was not getting to the winner while giving chase in the stretch. I think that this is very discouraging for Flashback fans, because certainly Orb, Verrazano, Revolutionary, and even Oxbow, have to be considered a notch above the gritty Goldencents. I believe N. Invasion would also pass Goldencents, as now he certainly is a major player. The only horse of interest to me now Joel as I am finalizing my Derby Day betting strategy to compliment the Future Bets that I have already made is War Academy next week in the AK Derby. He will have to run big to get into the Derby, he will need 1st or 2nd. I am expecting Oxbow to run big in the AK Derby, 1 or 2 finish. Here’s my current top 8 Joel. War Academy could shoot up this list if he wins the AK Derby. #1 Orb – I think he’s the one to beat, rested and dangerous.( if Johnny V. picks Verrazano he will be sorry on Derby Day ) #2 Verrazano – A talented colt who could hit the board in the Derby #3 Revolutionary – He is good, but he will have to bring his A game, he will be running late. #4 Gov. Charlie – I love his tactical speed, if he can get the 1 1/4, he could pull an upset at big odds. He was full of run at the wire of the Sunland Derby. #5 Oxbow – Likes CD, major bonus, tactical speed, live longshot. #6 N. Invasion – I may have him a bit low here. He is in good form now. #7 ItsMYLuckyDay – He will have to better his Fla. Derby performance to have a chance to hit the board. He does have good tactical speed. # 8 War Academy – Ak Derby will either move him up, or off of this list. I will be interested to see your list Joel, I hope you move Orb ahead of Flashback, who has lost 2 in a row now, not a good way to enter the Derby. I like the points system, we have a clear picture of who will be in, and who won’t.

    • Joel Cunningham

      Hey Joe!

      Well, Flashback is obviously off the trail now, and you never like to call an injury because of it’s negative nature, but I was afraid something was going on with him. First of all, he lugged in badly when he was swapping over to his right lead turning for home, and then totally flattened out and ran with an upright body posture that clearly showed in my mind that he was not dropping down, stretching out and finishing with everything he had. Gomez said after the race (before injury was discovered) that he had a lot of horse heading into the stretch, and thought he was going to run down Goldencents…then was disappointed with Flashback’s effort to the wire. It all makes sense now. Too bad, but hopefully it’s in a good location to pluck it out in surgery so that we can see this colt back at 100% maybe the second half of the year. Fingers crossed!

      I also agree that Orb very well looks like he could hold the tag of being “the horse to beat” simply because his pedigree seems more Classic-suited than Verrazano’s, however one building story line in my opinion is the Pace Scenario of the Derby…right now, to me, it looks like it could come up very lite on speed horses, depending on what Baffert does with Super Ninety Nine, as well as what happens in the Ark Derby, etc… But I would not be shocked if the race came up with no defined speed and Pletcher tactically decides to put Verrazano on the lead through manageable fractions and make the other 19 horses come catch him. At the very least he could be stalking Goldencents through a moderate-at-best pace. These types of scenarios would NOT be favorable for colts like Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, War Academy, etc. in my opinion. Orb is a very appealing “closer” because to me he’s the most adaptable to any pace scenario…he’s capable of laying closer and making multiple moves in a race to get into the proper position in the stretch for his finishing run, and I think that’s what makes him the early “horse to beat” in this year’s Derby.

      But much can and will happen in the next 26 days!

  • JR

    Hi Joel,
    Appreciate your comments, you always have an answer, I told my uncle when ever we have a question I always say “I’ll write to Joel, he’ll know”.
    I guess we now have an answer for why Flashback didn’t pick up his feet. It’s always disappointing to have a talented horse go out with an injury. But hopefully he will be o.k. for a fall campaign.

    Joel, I was impressed with N.Invasion in the Wood, I think he could be in the mix at the derby. Look forward to your re-cap.

    • Joel Cunningham

      Watch out, JR, I will always have a reply but much of the time it’s only my best guess as to the answer! 🙂

      Flashback is indeed disappointing, I really liked his overall profile and talent (I talk about his injury some in a comment below). Such a big, beautiful colt who was dappled out and looked great in the post parade Saturday…I didn’t think he could lose the way he looked, which makes me believe that there was unlikely a pre-existing injury, although you never know for sure… sometimes they can get micro-fractures or a little hairline that starts to form and then pops off under stress…and he certainly did run very very hard in the San Felipe so I wouldn’t rule that out. But it’s speculation, and I can only say that the horse looked like the picture of health before the race.

      Normandy ran a terrific race. Really impressed me in many ways. I never believed in the Remsen last fall so he was always a colt with something to prove for me. He had been working so well by all accounts the last month or so that it’s clear he was very likely an improving colt, which is what you’re looking for this time of year…who is making leaps & bounds and going in the right direction. He is.

      By my eye test, I have him going the final 3/8ths in under 36 secs, and the last 1/8th in under 12 when they straightened for home and were sprinting to the wire on their finishing leads. Then his big gallop out validated that he basically was going the best at/after the wire.

      The Wood was a Euro-style race IMO…zero pace and became a tactical jockeys’ race at the 3/8ths pole… Verrazano kept turning on and off based on what Johnny V wanted from him, and he was never asked for everything in the stretch (JV never really got into him with the stick). So he gets credit for handling business imo.

      Normany was at least 3-3.5 lengths off Verrazano at the 3/8ths pole, and by the time he got clear running he was still a good 3 lengths back at the 1/8th pole based on my eyes. So he really did come rolling…you have to wonder if Vyjack perhaps got a little discouraged that he could not go by Verrazano in the last 100 or so yards of the race, which may have afforded NI what he needed for that late surge to get up for 2nd. But you never really know.

      I think Normandy just became this year’s wise-guy horse for the Derby, and I cannot fault him. His pedigree does leave some concern about his ability to handle a classic distance…I know many times that people see a closer like this and assume he will handle the distance based on his style, but that kick can get flat if they really do not want the distance. The female family doesn’t have a ton of stamina in it which would concern me if I were a Normandy fan, and Tapit is also not known for being a sire that throws a ton of true classic types. Also if you like NI you need to be hoping for a decent pace to spread the field out IMO, and right now that could be a concern. We’ll see. Much can happen in the coming weeks 🙂

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