Run to the Roses: Verrazano still top, but pressure is on

4/22/2013 11:45 AM
By By Richard Rosenblatt AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Doug O'Neill is gearing up for a Kentucky Derby repeat.

A year after winning the Derby with I'll Have Another, the trainer is going for another - this time with Goldencents.

The 3-year-old colt came through with a huge race in winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and should be among the top contenders for the May 4 race.

O'Neill and his crew are feeling pretty good about their chances, especially after a recent workout in which Goldencents finally began to relax "big time.

"I saw a relaxed, mature horse that finished up great," O'Neill said after Goldencents worked four furlongs in 48.40 seconds at Santa Anita last week. One more workout on Thursday, and it's off to Louisville on Saturday.

I'll Have Another also won the Preakness, but was scratched and retired because of a tendon injury the day before attempting to win the Belmont Stakes and capture the Triple Crown.

Goldencents is No. 4 on the AP's final Run to the Roses' Top 10 list of Derby contenders, with Verrazano, Orb and Revolutionary holding their spots at 1-2-3, respectively.

Verrazano, one of as many as six Derby horses for trainer Todd Pletcher, had his first workout over Churchill Downs on Sunday, covering five furlongs in 1:00.20. Pletcher-trainee Revolutionary also worked, going four furlongs in 48.80.

Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner Orb worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Sunday at Payson Park before departing for Louisville.

"This was the one we need to get behind us," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "What I liked to see was that he was very settled going to the track, warming up and coming home."

While O'Neill will be attempting to become the seventh trainer to win back-to-back Derbys (Bob Baffert was the most recent, with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in '98), McGaughey will be saddling just his second Derby starter since his Easy Goer finished second to Sunday Silence in 1989.

"I'm really excited. I hope I stay excited and don't get nervous, but I know that's not going to happen," McGaughey said. "If everything goes right in the next 13 days, I'll really get excited about maybe having a chance to win."

The only changes in the top 10 saw Itsmyluckyday move up two spots to No. 7 and Mylute move into a tie at No. 10 with Will Take Charge.

Mylute finished second in the Louisiana Derby and has a new rider in Rosie Napravnik, the nation's fifth-leading jockey in earnings.

The 20-horse field will be chosen based on a new system of Derby qualifying points from designated races. Five of Pletcher's horses are in the top 20, with a sixth, Lexington Stakes winner Winning Cause, at No. 21.

Here's our Top 10:

1. Verrazano (Todd Pletcher, trainer; John Velazquez, jockey): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 Sunday at Churchill Downs, third fastest of 40 at the same distance. ... Wood winner is unbeaten in all four starts and will try to become the eighth unbeaten Derby winner. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 4. ... Final Derby future wager odds: 7-1.

2. Orb (Shug McGaughey, Joel Rosario): Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby winner worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Sunday at Payson Park. ... Gets original rider back now that Johnny V has chosen Verrazano. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.

3. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Calvin Borel): Louisiana Derby winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.80 Sunday at Churchill Downs. ... 2-for-2 this year after winning one of four as a 2-year-old. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.

4. Goldencents (Doug O'Neill, Kevin Krigger): Worked 4 furlongs in 48.40 last week at Santa Anita. ... O'Neill on way to Churchill to try and win second straight Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 49-1.

5. Overanalyze (Pletcher, Rafael Bejarano): Don't underrate Arkansas Derby winner, who also won the Remsen and Futurity Stakes ... Owner Mike Repole thrilled to have Derby fever again. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 49-1.

6. Normandy Invasion (Chad Brown, Javier Castellano): Despite only a maiden win in five races, colt is considered one of the "now" horses for the Derby after strong second in Wood. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 18-1.

7. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Worked 1 mile in 1:43.20 at Calder last week. ... Holy Bull winner and Florida Derby runner-up has one more workout planned, then ships to Churchill Downs on Friday. ... One of most experienced Derby starters, with five wins, two seconds and a third in 10 races. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 10-1.

8. Java's War (Kenny McPeek, Julien Leparoux): Ended three-race losing streak with Blue Grass win. ... Both trainer and rider looking for first Derby wins. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 31-1.

9. Palace Malice (Pletcher, Mike Smith): Another maiden winner also considered a "now" pick after running second in the Blue Grass. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 42-1.

10 (tie) Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, Jon Court): Rebel winner worked 1 mile in 1:41.60 Sunday at Churchill Downs. ... Comes into Derby off seven-week break. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 19-1.

10 (tie) Mylute (Tom Amoss, Rosie Napravnik): Louisiana Derby runner-up posted impressive workout at Churchill Downs on Sunday - 4 furlongs in 47.80, the fastest of 81 horses at the same distance. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 5-1 (mutuel field).

Keep an eye on: Black Onyx, Frac Daddy, Govenor Charlie, Oxbow, Vyjack.

Follow Rosenblatt at: twitter.com/rosenblattap


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