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After the Wood Memorial the Derby Picture Just Got Clearer

Going into the first Saturday in April there were six horses running that were ranked in graded earnings between 20th and 31st place. Those 11 spots corresponded to graded winnings from $180,000 on down to $103,855. Alpha (20th), I’ll Have Another (24th), Currency Swap (25th), My Adonis (26th), Gemologist (30th), and Longview Drive (31st) were entered in their last Derby prep in a battle to make the field on the first Saturday in May.
In addition Creative Cause (6th) and Liaison (11th), who have secured enough graded stakes earnings to be part of the Derby field were set to run in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) along with I’ll Have Another and Longview Drive. Currency Swap was to run in the $500,000 Illinois Derby (G3). Alpha, Gemologist, and My Adonis were following the Derby trail to the $1,000,000 Wood Memorial (G1).
In the Wood Memorial Gemologist (number 6 in the starting gate) and Alpha (NYRA video) battled down the stretch to gain the earnings that were needed to lock up a spot in the Kentucky Derby field. Gemologist took a length and a half lead and had to dig in to hold off a late charging Alpha. The official margin of victory was a neck and with the $600,000 winner’s share of the purse it lifted Gemologist to $703,855 of graded money.  Win Star President Elliot Walden commented about the importance of the money, “That’s a great win, he’s a great horse. This stamps him as a Derby prospect, which we’re excited about. We needed the earnings today.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher said, “It would be hard to be unhappy with anything he’s done so far his whole career. It was great to see. It looked like he had a little something left after the wire, so I think from a conditioning standpoint, with a good mile race and a good 1 1/8-mile race under our belt, hopefully we can have a good month of training leading up to it (The Kentucky Derby).”
For his second place finish Alpha picked up another $200,000 bringing his total graded earnings to $380,000, which should guarantee a spot for him in the field as Godolphin seeks their first Derby victory.  Alpha had a rough trip getting checked going into the first turn.  Beyond that Jockey Ramon Dominguez was very pleased with his horse’s effort, “I’m very happy with my horse. I thought he took a step forward from his last race. Today he got tested, he was towards the inside getting kickback, had trouble on the first turn and despite all that it was a very solid performance.”
I'll Have Another won the Santa Anita Derby by a nose over Creative Cause.  The $450,000 purse puts I’ll Have Another at $601,000 total graded earnings.  Creative Cause added to his already big bankroll with the $150,000 place purse. Currency Swap, My Adonis, and Longview Drive ran out of the money.
The Derby picture is a little clearer after the first Saturday in April. Alpha, Gemologist, and I’ll Have Another are in the Derby while Currency Swap, My Adonis, and Longview Drive are out. 


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Older Comments about After the Wood Memorial the Derby Picture Just Got Clearer...

Looking like a better crop of three year-old colts than most we have seen of late, and potentially the best betting Derby in some time. I will be perfectly willing to let the odds dictate this one. If Gemologist is underlaid due to undefeated record and high-profile connections, will stay away; ditto Take Charge Indy w/ Borel up. Obviously we need to see who actually makes it to the gate--and post draw--but could envision as many as half a dozen legit contenders at playable odds on Derby day, including I'll Have Another, Went the Day Well, Daddy Longlegs, Alpha, Mark Valeski, and Wrote. And I see Genady Dorchenko plans to toss Hero of Order in the Bluegrass--what do you do if he runs another big one @ Keeneland? Should make for some whopping exotic payouts at this year's Derby!
Everyone be sure to check out my votes for the Top 10 3 YOs on the NTRA polls ( on Monday afternoon. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts on HRN.
The TWO important preps this weekend did not have a single winner. For all intents and purposes both the WOod and the SA Derby validated two contnders for the big prize down the line.
It's a shame that CC lost, but what a gritty win by I'll Have Another! And cocoa, I, too, do not understand how a 50% win margin in thoroughbred racing is considered "rarely winning." If we were talking football, then I would agree that winning only half the time isn't all that great. But this is horse racing, and if a horse has a 50% win rate, then that's really good due to the sheer number of horses in the sport. Add in the fact that he has a 50% win rate while racing in Grade 1 and Grade 2 races, and that just makes his record look even better.
@SteveHerron: That reminds me...what were Alpha's come-home fractions?
Sometimes these races raise more questions than they answer. Gemologist looked impressive, & really like Alpha, but don't know what to think.
Personally I think. This is a very talented crop of three yr olds. One of my favorite groups in a long time. We have several standouts. And some that will be back in training later on in the year. I am not ready to call them as talented as the Bold Ruler, Round TablebGen. duke etc. but ther are some very nice horses both fillies and colts running now.
If I had to choose, I'd take either of the top two finishers of the SA Derby long before I take Gemologist in the Kentucky Derby. Sure, the horse quickened to hold off Alpha in the final hundred yards, but he still came home in a pedestrian 13.2 seconds! And against a weak field. The Kentucky Derby doesn't go to horses who come home that slow. It's pretty much impossible. Having Todd Pletcher as your trainer isn't exactly something to be optimistic about when it comes to the Derby. I'll Have Another and Creative Cause both got exactly what they needed out of the SA Derby, setting them up nicely for the first Saturday in May!
cocoa, Stop trying to get my attention. I'm of to my daughter's for the holiday. You are wrong about CC. Here's what I'll say about your ridiculousness, when has CC been giving up the lead? I will look forward to your race by race analysis, pedigree overview, discussion of class(in horse racing), your realization that he should not have been hit, any thoughts on the blinkers off/not going all out in his final Derby prep, etc. See you later or in the next few days. Whenever you bring the facts and an opinion not meant to annoy. Gracias.
maybe we should all vounteer and give cocoa a remdial course in thoroughbred racing history
4 wins in 8 starts? You make no sense rarely is 1/10 not 1/2
Our definitions of rarely do not match it seems, CC is a placer or shower horse, not a winner.
ya hes a 50 % winner thats pretty solid. Always in tough company as well.
CC has won 4 of his 8 starts. In what reality is that "rarely winning?" He only lost this race by a nostril. Jeez.
CC is a consistent runner up, never off the board, but rarely winning.
You got to watch these stakes races, I'll Have Another need to bulid mometum so he can be a factor, but I agree with georgeszary most horses will probably not be a big conteneder for the derby coming out of this race. I may be wrong, but there are probably bigger stakes races than these.
Is Alpha guaranteed a spot in the Derby? If Trinniberg wins the Swale and any combo of Bodemeister/Isn't He Clever/Scatman/Optimizer finish 1-2 in the Arkansas, and Prospective/Drill/Howe Great do similarly well in the Bluegrass - isn't he out? Or potentially out anyway? (I think Yang Tse Kiang is headed for the French Triple Crown, so discarding him and possible Wrote(IRE) as well, Alpha might just nip it anyway - even in that case).
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • amberflash · And the Swale's already been run - d'oh! Someone should fix that on the Interactive Derby Wall... · 2474 days ago
  • sallyeastman · Isn't Trinniberg a sprinter? Could he go 1.25 miles? · 2473 days ago
Based on what we saw in the Wood, its hard to believe any horse coming out of that race will be much of a factor in the Dery. The road to the Derby ran through California and Florida this year. I'm loving the prospect of another under conditioned, over hyped Pletcher colt taking a lot of money because its an easy toss. Look at the way O'neill is conditioning I'll Have Another...there's a horse that will have a foundation and when he has to dig down deep there will be something there! Same thiong with Creative Cause...Contrary to the Pletcher school, training and racing is actually GOOD for a racehorse.

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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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