The Wood Memorial was billed as the battle of “V” versus “V”, Verrazano
against Vyjack, and that is exactly how it played out. Verrazano got the “V”
for Victory in the battle down the stretch against Vyjack.
Early in the race Verrazano sat in second place just
behind the early speed. Vyjack also
was waiting to make his move, a little bit further back in fourth place. Around
the turn Verrazano took the lead and began to lengthen. Down the stretch Vyjack
made his move and drew close to Verrazano, but he could not get to the unbeaten
4-5 favorite. Near the wire Vyjack began to fade as Normandy Invasion came charging to get second money in the Wood.
Verrazano ended winning by three quarters of a length in a relatively slow time
As a result Verrazano
earned another 100 Road to the Kentucky
Derby points and $600,000. Normandy Invasion picked up 40 points to give
him a total of 44, which should be enough to get him into the field on the
first Saturday in May.
Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Verrazano, talked about his More Than Ready colt, “It
was a very good effort. He continued to win, stretch out in distance, and step
up in competition. So another big effort by him. Every race gets a little bit
tougher and the distances get longer and so this was a huge win for him.”
The Wood Memorial answered
several questions heading into the Derby, but at the same time it created a
couple of very important questions. Who will John Velasquez decide to ride,
remembering that he guided both Orb and Verrazano to their most recent wins? Also, who will be the favorite when
the horses go in the gate at Churchill Downs on May 4th?
Johnny V. wants to take his time making his decision,“We will see how the horses come back. We all know I had three years back-to-back with the favorite leading to the Derby and [none] of the three horses made it. So I hope the people give me the opportunity to watch the horses work, and then we’ll make a decision later on. I’d be very stupid if I made a decision right now.”
Pletcher commented on the
second of those questions, “Verrazano hasn’t done anything wrong so far and
there are still some preps to go, but I would right now say that he is the
As Verrazano prepares for
the Derby, Pletcher said,”The key now is to go to Churchill and get over that
track well. Churchill can be a very peculiar surface and a lot of horses don’t
The Wood Memorial was the
last of five graded stakes races at Aqueduct.
Here are the highlights of the other big races:
A Stakes Win for the Little Guy - The stakes card began with a huge upset, as Withgreatpleasure won the Ruffian Handicap (G2) and paid $30.60. David
Nunn, whose identical twin brother Doug is also a trainer, now has the family
bragging rights as the first to win a graded stakes race. Nunn was choked up when he talked about
his filly, “She [Withgreatpleasure], has taken me places that I have never been.”
Close Hatches Stays Unbeaten - The Gazelle (G2) featured three horses that entered the race on winning streaks. Walkwithapurpose came into the mile and
an eighth contest with five Laurel wins in a row for Sagamore Farm with the
last three in stakes. Princess of Sylmar had reeled off five in a row for Todd
Pletcher and all those wins were by significant margins. It was the Bill Mott trainee Close Hatches, who kept her win streak
alive and remained undefeated in three career starts. On the early lead, Close
Hatches held off a late charge by Princess of Sylmar. Bill Mott talked about
this talented filly, “She went to eyeball-to-eyeball with a horse that has a lot of experience.
I think for a third start and first time in stakes company, she ran very, very
well. The [Kentucky Oaks on May 3]
is certainly a possibility.”
Nick Zito Wins his First Bay Shore -Declan’s
Warrior launched a determined closing drive to win the Bay Shore (G3) by a head at the wire. The Nick Zito trainee
defeated a field of very nice three-year-olds, who were not on the Road to the
Kentucky Derby. Last year Trinniberg won the Bay Shore and went on to victory
in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Eclipse Award for sprinters. This was the
first stakes win for Declan's Warrior.
Zito’s wife, Kim, is the primary owner of the horse. He summed up the win, “The
speed got going and he got going in the end.”
Florida Shipper Wins on a Chilly Day at Aqueduct - Swagger Jack came north from Florida to win the Carter (G1) on a chilly spring
day at Aqueduct. Swagger Jack (15-1)
had finished second in his last two graded stakes efforts at Gulfstream. Today
he was able to turn the tables on Discreet Dancer and Fort Loudon. The heavy
favorite Discreet Dancer finished third.