NEW YORK — Verrazano will attempt to break a longstanding Kentucky Derby jinx – win the race without having run as a 2-year-old.
It’s been done before, but only once in 138 previous runnings, and that occurred in 1882 when Apollo won the Run for the Roses.
Since 1937, 57 3-year-olds have tried and failed to win the Derby without having raced at 2. Three finished second, Coaltown in 1948, Strodes Creek in 1994 and Bodemeister last year, and four others finished third. The rest? Off the board.
After winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct over the weekend, an unbeaten Verrazano will take his turn on May 4. On Monday, the colt reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the AP’s latest Run to the Roses’ Top 10 list of Derby contenders, with Florida Derby winner Orb dropping to second.
Bryan Sullivan, of co-owner Let’s Go Stable, says the topic has been discussed, noting Verrazano was set to run in late December but a suitable race was unavailable. The colt’s first race was the day he turned 3 – Jan. 1, 2013 – and he won by 7¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park.
“At some point, it’s going to be broken and, obviously, we’d love to be the people that do it,” Sullivan said recently of the 2-year-old jinx. “But I don’t think that’s going to stop us. I don’t think I’m going to point after the Kentucky Derby and say, ‘Geez, you know what? The reason why we didn’t win it is because we didn’t run nine days earlier.”
Adds trainer Todd Pletcher: “If they had a race on New Year’s Eve he would have won that. That’s totally out of our control. I think one thing we’ve seen over the last 10 years is all the Derby jinxes and Derby trends have been blown up, starting with Barbaro.”
In 2006, Barbaro became the first horse since 1956 to win the Derby off a five-week layoff. Some others: In 2007, Street Sense became the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the first 2-year-old champion since Spectacular Bid in 1979 to win it; in 2008, Big Brown became the first horse to win from the No. 20 post; and in 2009 Mine That Bird joined Funny Cide (2003) as one of two geldings to win since 1929.
In the Wood, Verrazano defeated Normandy Invasion by three-quarters of a length.
with Vyjack a neck farther back in third place. Normandy Invasion moved into the top 10 at No. 6, and Vyjack dropped to No. 8 after his first loss in five career starts.
Revolutionary is third, with Goldencents fourth courtesy of his Santa Anita Derby win on Saturday. Goldencents is trained by Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby and the Preakness last year with I’ll Have Another, and co-owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.
Two promising Derby prospects are off the trail with knee injuries, San Felipe winner Hear the Ghost and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Flashback.
Here’s our Top 10:
1. Verrazano (Todd Pletcher, trainer; John Velazquez, jockey): Fended off two rivals in stretch of Wood Memorial to improve to 4-0. ... Will attempt to become eighth Derby winner with unbeaten record. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 4. ... Final Derby future wager odds: 7-1.
2. Orb (Shug McGaughey, John Velazquez): New rider possible since Velazquez is likely to stick with Verrazano if he’s healthy enough to ride after a weekend spill. ... Florida Derby winner takes four-race winning streak to Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.
3. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Louisiana Derby winner gives Pletcher a strong No. 2. ... Son of War Pass has won three in a row. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.
4. Goldencents (Doug O’Neill, Kevin Krigger): Big effort to win Santa Anita Derby gives O’Neill a shot at second straight Derby win. ... Last African-American jockey to win Derby was Jimmy Winkfield in 1902. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 49-1.
5. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Florida Derby runner-up has been in the money in eight of 10 starts. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 10-1.
6. Normandy Invasion (Chad Brown, Castellano): Despite only a maiden win, strong finish to get second in Wood has colt’s stock rising. ... Castellano has choice to make since he also rides Revolutionary. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 18-1.
7. Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, Jon Court): Rebel winner may or may not run in Blue Grass before heading to Churchill Downs. .. Next start: Undecided. ... Odds: 19-1.
8. Vyjack (Rudy Rodriguez, Joel Rosario): Unbeaten no longer after third-place finish in Wood. ... Wins in Jerome and Gotham make him a legit Derby prospect. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 10-1.
9. Oxbow (Lukas, Mike Smith): Worked 6 furlongs in 1:14.60 Friday at Oaklawn. ... Edged by stablemate Will Take Charge in Rebel. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, Saturday. ... Odds: 21-1.
10. Govenor Charlie (Baffert, Martin Garcia): Can a Sunland Derby winner take the real Derby, too? ... Bloodlines indicate colt can indeed get 1 1/4-mile Derby distance. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 5-1 (mutuel field).
Keep an eye on: Black Onyx, Falling Sky, Mylute, Uncaptured, War Academy.