I know quite a few of you might expect a post today about tonight’s National Championship Final down in Atlanta, where my beloved Redbirds will be playing Cain’s Be-sooted (sic) Maize and Blue Marvel Comix Characters (no bologna).
However, I will humbly defer, due to an acute allergy to all bad ju-ju and other such superstitious toxins. I learned my lesson after taking Wichita State a little too casually and as a result experiencing four or five apoplectic cardiac arrhythmias during Saturday evening’s semifinal game.
Let’s take this time then to talk Kentucky Derby and one of my favourites (sic) in both the equine and suspension categories – Verrazano — the Winner of this weekend’s Wood Memorial Derby Prep at Acqueduct. I am usually very partial to the winner of the Wood Memorial, as it’s quite often racing against the best 3-year old competition prior to the Derby, and what’s more important, racing in very similar conditions to that of the Derby itself.
This is extremely important, and often overlooked by fans of the Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and Santa Anita Derbies (the other noted Triple Crown prep races). While there’s much difference in attitude between my native home and my adopted one, there’s actually very little difference in overall climates. We might get slightly milder winters and less hurricanes down here in the Bluegrass, but for the most part our weather patterns, up to an including ambient temperatures are very similar.
Moreover, the Wood Memorial at Acqueduct , is conducted in a similarly aged (and aging) facility, and on a dirt track — no small matter in this age of synthetic (read “rubber”) surfaces. So I like the winner of this race way better than I do the palm-swaying pooftahs down in California or Florida. Mind you, The Illinois Derby (which is no longer considered a Derby prep), in Cicero, IL, is another similarly-conditioned race, but it never seems to draw the same top flight competition that the Wood, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana and Santa Anita races do.
(Rumor has it the Illinois was dropped from the Derby trials because Gap and Yap has been caught waving a sparking taser at the horses there one too many times, and they lost their insurance coverage.)
Pulling back to Verrazano, he’s a plucky “working” horse with a lot of muscle to him, and he reminds me of former Kentucky Derby winner Fusiachi Pegasus in that regard. He ran something of a slow Wood Memorial (finish time for the 1 and 1/8 miler was 1:50:37) , but that could mean nothing, given he was only following the pace horse (ChrisandtheCapper) for the first three quarters of his run, and biding his time to make his move. What’s important is that he held of his competition in a very game Vyjack (who fell to third after going neck and neck), and a surging Normandy Invasion, who took second at the wire.
The only smoke on his horizon may be that Verrazano’s jockey, John Velasquez, who also rode Florida Derby winner Orb (see below), got hurt late yesterday in a fall at Acqueduct. A change in jockey can be a big problem for a young horse
I also like Orb, the Florida Derby winner and of course Goldencents (whatta name!), the Rick Pitino-owned colt that just took the Santa Anita Derby prep from Bob Baffert-trained favorite Flashback. I will have more to say about those ponies in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s hope Verrazano is not a Bridge Too Far.
Oh, and cover those silver shorts too, while you are at it.
UPDATE: Breaking… Flashback has been pulled from the Derby Trail due to a bonechip injury resulting from last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. Out for at least two months.
Pitino wins again!