A very strong field of 10 has been assembled for the 2013 Wood Memorial, but seemingly the
race sets up as a battle between Vyjack and Verrazano. That makes the Wood a
clash of “V” versus “V” and thus it is very easy to think of the historic
slogan of "V for Victory".
During the early years of World War II, when Germany was at the height of its power and had occupied much of Europe, the “V for Victory” saying
emerged as a morale booster and as a rallying point across the continent. “V
for Victory” really took hold in England and in July of 1941, British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill launched his “V for Victory” campaign. From that
point on, Churchill always flashed the two finger “V” sign when he appeared in
Verrazano enters the Wood
undefeated in three Florida starts since New Year’s Day. The More Than Ready
colt will break from post position 8, as trainer Todd Pletcher tries to win the
final New York Derby prep race for the third time in the past four years. Gemologist won last year and
Eskendereya was victorious in 2010, both of those horses were heavy betting
favorites. Verrazano joins those two having been installed as a 4-5 morning
Pletcher talked about the success of his leading Derby candidate, “He’s
been a rare horse who’s been able to go from a maiden on January 1 to the Derby
favorite on the first of April, which you don’t see very often. He’s been able to handle everything
we’ve thrown at him so far and now we have another step to go. We’re optimistic
as he continues to develop he’ll be able to continue to handle his
Jockey John Velazquez,
who has ridden Verrazano in all of his starts, will stay on board. Johnny V.
comes to Aqueduct having just won four stakes including the Florida Derby on
Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Vyjack is also unbeaten,
but after fours starts at Aqueduct. Vyjack
has gotten a lot of attention for his dramatic change in running style having
gone from a front runner to a deep closer. Assistant trainer Gustavo Rodriguez
talked about the transformation, “Earlier, maybe we weren’t training him the
right way. Now, we train him
differently and got him to relax. We changed the training. We put him behind
horses, and it seems like everything is good with him. We think the horse is
getting better as time goes by. When we work him, we like to put him in company
because sometimes he doesn’t pay attention. When we put him in company, he
Vyjack, who has been listed as the 4-1 morning line second choice and who drew the 5 post position, will retain the services of jockey Joel Rosario. Rosario is fresh off his
victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup with Animal Kingdom.
In addition to both horses being undefeated, they both have already
secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby field when they each earned 50 points in
their previous Road to the Derby prep. Vyjack won the Gotham and Verrazano took the Tampa Bay Derby.
Six of the 10 horses in the field come into the race with some Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The six have a total of 117 points, so to get into the Derby
field those other eight horses will most likely need to win the race or finish
second to be able to run at Churchill Downs.
The Wood Memorial also has a noteworthy history as a Derby prep
race. There have been 11 winners
of the Wood-Kentucky Derby double. Six Triple Crown winners ran in the Wood and
eight horses lost here in New York, but came back to take the Run for the
The Wood is slated as race 11 out of 12, that includes four other graded
stakes: the Ruffian (G2), the Gazelle (G2), the Bay Shore (G3), and the Carter
(G1). The Wood will be televised by the NBC Sports Network, with post time set
for 6:28pm ET.
So do not be surprised if at the end of the day, that the owners of
either Vyjack or Verrazano will be in the winner's circle flashing two fingers
to show "V for Victory" in the Wood Memorial.