Verrazano is the one to beat in Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, a 1 1/8-mile test and a Kentucky Derby points race.
1. Chrisandthecapper (First Samurai – Wini Jones by Seeking the Gold) (J. Lezcano/J. Servis) (30-1) – Impressive maiden win over the inner track and the trainer is on a streak. He’s never run farther than six furlongs, however, and stretching out to this distance in a Grade 1 is a mighty tall task. Worth every bit of 30-1; maybe 50-1.
2. Normandy Invasion (Tapit – Boston Lady by Boston Harbor) (C. Brown/J. Castellano) (5-1) – Here’s a chance at redemption after a debacle of a Risen Star in which he bumped hard with Oxbow at the start and made a late rally. His best performances have come on this track and he boasts Wood blood by his sire (Tapit won in ’04). Castellano jumps aboard. With all these factors in mind, an improvement is anticipated.
3. Quinzieme Monarque (Rock Hard Ten – Quintela by Giant’s Causeway) (T. Albertrani/I. Ortiz) (30-1) – Irad Otiz takes the mount and he’s first-time Lasix, so there are angles to consider, but overall his running style is what could hamper him here. In his recent races he’s been slow to start and wasn’t able to make up enough ground. Ortiz could take a different approach from this spot. His speed figures are worrisome compared to the rest of the field.
4. Elnaawi (Street Sense – Pilfer by Deputy Minister) (E. Castro/K. McLaughlin) (12-1) – The half-brother of To Honor and Serve, our Live Longshot in the Gotham, has been training well at Belmont and could benefit from the switch back to the main track. He’s endured some tough trips and just needs a clear run to make his mark. Jockey switch to Eddie Castro. He wins Most Likely to Upset award.
5. Vyjack (Into Mischief – Life Happened by Stravinsky) (J. Rosario/R. Rodriguez) (4-1) – Local standout puts his undefeated record on the line and faces his toughest foe yet in Verrazano. The jockey-trainer combo is strong here, and Rosario is a good fit for this charge. He boasts the advantage of being at his home base, but this could be the race where he’s exposed. The stretch-out from 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 is key.
6. Mr. Palmer (Pulpit – In Truth by Quiet American) (J. Alvarado/B. Mott) (12-1) – Late bloomer has shown steady progression throughout his career and has an appealing pedigree for these longer distances. He’s changed up his running style and has adapted well to the various pace scenarios thrown his direction. This is a steep class hike, however, considering the level of competition he’s beaten.
7. Always in a Tiz (Tiznow – Calendar Girl by Elusive Quality) (C. Borel/D. Schettino) (15-1) – A lot going on with this intriguing prospect who adds blinkers and gets Calvin Borel in the irons. He hasn’t won since his maiden win at 5.5 furlongs in September, when he beat Revolutionary, who was third. He showed promise when finishing second to Vyjack over this sloppy Aqueduct track and in a solid third in the Smarty Jones. Sloppy track in the Southwest and a lung infection have thwarted his recent plans, but he appears back on track. He might like being back home in Schettino’s barn, but there’s a lot to overcome.
8. Verrazano (More Than Ready – Enchanted Rock by Giant’s Causeway) (J. Velazquez/T. Pletcher) (4-5) – Not much value, but that’s to be expected for the freak, the super horse, the top Derby contender. This is his toughest test yet, though; if one thinks Tampa is a ‘quirky’ surface, welcome to Aqueduct. This is also a more appealing field with a couple of contenders on the upswing. Still, from what he’s shown so far, he’s still much the best. Unlike most others here, he doesn’t need to win to make the Derby field.
9. Go Get the Basil (Andromeda’s Hero – Images in Jade by Jade Hunter) (J. Ortiz/R. Violette) (30-1) – He’s consistent, he boasts an advantageous running style and his last two races are quite appealing. Speed figure from last race puts him on level with some of the more accomplished foes here. Interesting Irad lands on #3 while brother Jose takes over here.
10. Freedom Child (Malibu Moon – Bandstand by Deputy Minister) (E. Trujillo/T. Albertrani) (30-1) – He was a good second in a key race here in November that featured Orb and Revolutionary. Winning route races at Gulfstream from the far outside is comparable to a lunar eclipse, yet he did it to break his maiden. He did get the easy lead in that test. All together now . . “But who did he beat?” Interesting to note he and Mr. Palmer are the only contenders with a win at the distance. First-time Lasix adds to the appeal of this mystery colt.
Top Pick: 8) Verrazano
Exotics: 2) Normandy Invasion
Live Longshot: 4) Elnaawi