Kentucky Derby April Prep Races Recap

Here’s a rundown of what happened in April as horses and jockeys vied for spots in the 139th Kentucky Derby.

Wood Memorial Results at Aqueduct

Win, Verrazano
Place, Normandy Invasion
Show, Vyjack

This was the race that basically put Todd Pletcher’s Verrazano on the map in terms of Kentucky Derby contenders. Coming into the Wood as a 4/5 favorite, Verrazano had to grind out a victory for essentially the first time in his career, holding off the hard-charging Vyjack and a late push from Normandy Invasion to capture the $1 million stakes race.

While the race was big for Verrazano, it was almost of equal importance to Normandy Invasion. The second place finish secured some much-needed points for the Derby.

“I’m happy with my horse’s performance; very grateful that he got up for second and got the points hopefully to get into the Derby,” Verrazano trainer Chad Brown told USA Today following the race. “If the horse comes back good, I don’t see any reason why a mile and a quarter third off the layoff for him shouldn’t really hit him between the eyes.”

Santa Anita Derby Results at Santa Anita Park

Win, Goldencents
Place, Flashback
Show, Super Ninety Nine

This race had a pretty neat back-story for those interested in betting on the Kentucky Derby.

Goldencents is owned in part by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. The same weekend the horse captured the Santa Anita, coach and his team advanced to the NCAA Championship game – which they won on the Monday in a great game against the University of Michigan.

Goldencents had himself a fine weekend in his own right, coming into the race as something of an underdog to Flashback. Despite that, he ended up capturing the race by 1 1/4 lengths.

”These are the races you want to be a part of,” Goldencents trainer Doug O’Neill told the Associated Press following the race. ”This horse has been such a cool horse. I don’t think those big crowds and all the people at the Derby will be a factor for him, so I’m pumped.”

Arkansas Derby Results

Win, Overanalyze
Place, Frac Daddy
Show, Carve

The biggest story out of Arkansas wasn’t the horse that won but rather the horse that didn’t finish.

Pre-race favorite War Academy was supposed to be the marquee runner in the event, but things didn’t go according to plan. Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, War Academy started backing out of the contest on the backstretch, and shortly after, Smith was seen walking beside the horse, who appeared to be in distress.

One of the key members of the Bob Baffert stable, War Academy – a favorite in terms of Kentucky Derby horse odds – excited the racetrack on his own, much to the relief of concerned onlookers.

“[War Academy] took four or five really awkward steps,” Smith explained afterward. “I didn’t see anything major causing it, but I just felt really awkward on him and figured better safe than sorry.”

About Tennessee Leduc

Born in Summersville Kentucky, Tennessee is an impassioned fan of horse racing, women, civilized debauchery, and... mint juleps. He writes, he reads, he listens, but above all he experiences the world he lives in.

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