The Brock Talk

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wood Memorial and Santa Anita and Illinois Derbies Look To Leave Decade of Disappointment Behind

There are many questions regarding the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands to be answered this weekend with the running of Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) in California, the Illinois Derby (gr. 3) and the Wood Memorial (gr. 1) at Aqueduct in New York.

Will juvenile male champion Lookin at Lucky (right) benefit from the last minute schedule change to stay home at Santa Anita instead of traveling to Arkansas next week? Will Eskendereya replicate his dominating performance in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. 2) in which he achieved a division leading 106 Beyer Speed Figure? Will American Lion finally live up to his winter hype and take the Illinois Derby?

During the last ten years, all three races have produced a Kentucky Derby winner as 2002 Illinois Derby winner War Emblem won in Kentucky as did 2000 Wood Memorial winner Fusaichi Pegasus. The sole Kentucky Derby winner to have run in the Santa Anita Derby during that time is Giacomo, who was fourth at Santa Anita.

Two other Kentucky Derby winners during the oughts made their previous starts in the Wood Memorial. Both 2001 winner Monarchos and 2003 winner were second in their respective Wood Memorials.

Two Wood Memorial winners have run well without winning the Derby including Congaree in 2001 (third in Kentucky) and Empire Maker (2nd in 2003). Santa Anita Derby winners, on the other hand, have lit the board only twice in Kentucky in that span. Pioneerofthe Nile finished second last year and Brother Derek was in a dead heat for fourth with Jazil in 2006.

One other historical notation in the last decade of Kentucky Derby winners: Only five, Big Brown, Barbaro, Smarty Jones, War Emblem and Fusaischi Pegasus won their race just previous to the Derby. Meaning the best horse in early April is not always the fastest on the first Saturday in May. The average Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby winners have finished seventh in Kentucky - the average Illinois Derby winner 9th.

But this is a new decade and the two current favorites to win the Kentucky Derby are running this weekend in Lookin at Lucky and Eskenderya and both have formidable foes in their paths.

Lookin at Lucky will likely be a heavy favorite in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby after over coming trouble several times to win the Rebel Stakes (gr. 3) at Oaklawn. Also entered in the Santa Anita Derby are Sidney's Candy, currently third in TBA 3-year-old colt standings provided by OCD Pellets and the winner of the San Felipe (gr. 2) and San Vicente Stakes (gr. 2) at Santa Anita during the winter; and Caracortado, a winner of his first five career starts and the grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes before finishing third in the San Felipe last race. A rapidly improving Alphie's Bet, already a winner at 1-1/8 miles in the Sham Stakes.

The Wood Memorial may be a bit more competitive with the likes of Awesome Act, Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams also headed to New York.

Awesome Act is a British import who came to New York to impressively win the grade 3 Gotham Stakes last month and has remained stateside to train for the Wood. Jackson Bend comes from the Nick Zito barn that has won the Wood Memorial three times with Thirty Six Red in 1990, Adonis ('99) and Bellamy Road ('05). Zito is hoping Jackson Bend can improve enough to avenge the runner-up performance in the Fountain of Youth behind Eskendereya. Schoolyard Dreams comes from Tampa Bay Downs where he lost their Derby by a close nose behind Odysseus.

The Illinois Derby will be a test of two sophomores trying to establish themselves and earn a trip to the Kentucky Derby. Backtalk, a favorite of this blog, will be trying for his second victory this year after winning the one-mile Sportsman’s Paradise Stakes at Delta Downs Feb. 26. Trained by Tom Amoss, the son of Smarty Jones may already have the graded earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby but may need a solid effort in Illinois to secure the ticket.

American Lion has shipped to Illinois from California where he was third behind Caracortado in the Robert B. Lewis and fourth behind winner Sidney's Candy in the San Felipe.


Anonymous said...

I am eager to see if Backtalk can live up to his two-year-old reputation and go on the the Kentucky Derby.
It's interesting that the Wood is one of the more competitive fields this weekend. There are only 6 horses entered but the majority of them are really high class.
Lookin At Lucky should take the Santa Anita Derby easy after his impressive Rebel win.
Great blog, I hadn't been here before!

Brock Sheridan said...

I'm hoping Backtalk does well as we have been blogging about him since he broke his maiden.

Agree the Wood may be one of the best 6-horse field betting opportunities in recent memory.

And thanks for the nice words.