Now we’ll see if the pre-season Kentucky Derby favorite can make it all the way to Louisville four weeks from Saturday.
After drawing post position five in a field of 10, the Nick Zito-trained War Pass was installed the 6-5 early line favorite by New York Racing Association linemaker Eric Donovan for Saturday’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial, having its 84th renewal.
“His work last week was great,” said Zito. “From what I can see, he’s going to put in a good effort.”
Which is about all anyone can do. Seeking redemption, War Pass will be sent to the front by Cornelio Velasquez, or it will be another rider at the controls for his next start. Which War Pass shows up is anyone's guess.
Given that War Pass likely gained nothing from his Tampa non-effort, the champion needs to run big Saturday or there might not be a Derby in his future. Zito will also start Anak Nakal, who’s run terribly in both starts at 3. The 20-1 outsider will be adding blinkers, but leaves from an extreme outside post.
Texas Wildcatter, beaten in the final jump by Visionaire in the G3 Gotham after adding blinkers, gets the pole and a switch to Eibar Coa. He improved dramatically with the head gear last time and might have moved prematurely on that fog-enshrouded occasion. Like Bill Mott and Zito, this will be one of two Todd Pletcher players.
Court Vision, winner on this track at the nine furlong Wood distance while taking the Remsen at 2, leaves from post three under Garrett Gomez. He figures to be shorter than his early odds of 6-1 indicate. In his season’s debut, he was a good-finish third in the Fountain of Youth.
“He ran well considering it was a speed favoring track,” said Mott, “and he’s been doing very well since.” Court Vision is owned in partnership by WinStar Farms--who also owns Santa Anita Derby favorite Colonel John--and IEAH Stables, who own the majority interest in undefeated Florida Derby sensation, Big Brown.
Previously unbeaten Giant Moon, who detested the sloppy Gotham track, gets a chance to make amends beneath a rejuvenated Jorge Chavez. Leaving from post 7, “Chop Chop” figures to keep War Pass within his sights on the first turn. His chances will depend on just how heavy Friday’s forecasted heavy rains will be.
Tale Of Ekati had little chance in his three-year-old debut when in the grasp of an assistant starter while leaving the gate in Pyro’s G2 Louisiana Derby. Also working well in Florida, Edgar Prado takes the re-ride on another well regarded member of this field seeking redemption. Barclay Tagg will saddle the 9-2 early second choice from post eight.
The Wood and Santa Anita Derby are part of a national NBC broadcast from 5 to 6 p.m., EDT. At Hawthorne on Saturday afternoon, undefeated Denis Of Cork heads a field of seven in the G2 Illinois Derby.