Victory Is Sweet for Desormeaux
Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who has won the Kentucky Derby twice with Real Quiet and Fusaichi Pegasus, has himself a contender again for the world’s most famous race, which will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Sweetnorthernsaint, who could have been claimed for $40,000 less than five months ago, earned a trip to Kentucky with an authoritative victory in the $500,000 Illinois Derby on Saturday at Hawthorne.
Giving Desormeaux his second consecutive runaway win in the Grade II stakes race -- he won a year ago with Greeley’s Galaxy -- the 3-year-old Sweetsouthernsaint gelding was much more impressive in victory than Bob And John had been about 30 minutes earlier in rainy New York.
Making his first start outside California, Bob And John, the 2-1 second choice, ground out a 1 1/2 -length win in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, a race in which more than 40 seconds were needed to run the final three-eighths of a mile, including a final furlong in 14.06 seconds. The clocking for the 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy surface was 1:51.54.
Jazil, a 15-1 shot, rallied from far back to gain second, a half-length in front of pacesetter and 9-10 favorite Keyed Entry.
This was the fourth win in nine starts for Bob And John, a son of Seeking The Gold who is owned by Bob and Janice McNair’s Stonerside Stable. He was ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, who had a stakes double for trainer Bob Baffert.
One race before the Wood, Gomez and Too Much Bling, the 11-10 favorite, rolled to a nine-length victory over 3-2 second choice Songster in the $147,000 Bay Shore Stakes. Gomez narrowly missed another stakes score with Sir Greeley, who was second to longshot Bishop Court Hill in the $300,000 Carter Handicap.
Gomez says he believes the 1 1/4 -mile distance of the Derby will be in Bob and John’s favor.
“I think it will be right up his alley,” he said. “He had to ship from the warm weather to the cold weather and he handled the deeper track. He’s a grinder. I was very impressed with the way he handled everything.”
Owned by Joseph Balsamo and Ted Theos and trained by Michael Trombetta, Sweetnorthernsaint had a good trip in the Illinois Derby despite his outside draw in the field of 10.
The Florida-bred tracked the pace set by California shipper and 27-1 shot Mister Triester for most of the way, took over at the head of the stretch and drew off to win by 9 1/4 lengths. It was the third win in six starts for Sweetnorthernsaint, who ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.82.
Mister Triester, who had been ridden by Desormeaux when he finished fourth behind Brother Derek in the Santa Catalina on March 4 at Santa Anita, saved the place by one length over 2-1 favorite Cause To Believe.
Spun Sugar, the 3-1 third choice, rallied after 6-5 favorite Happy Ticket had taken the lead in the stretch and won the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Star Parade, the 19-10 second choice, finished fifth in the field of six under jockey Martin Pedroza.
Darrell Vienna, who trains Star Parade, fared a bit better two races later in the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Magnum, the runner-up to Lava Man in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4, was second again, this time losing to Buzzards Bay.
The winner of the 2005 Santa Anita Derby, Buzzards Bay ($6.60) won under jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. Trained by Ron Ellis for owner Gary Broad, the 4-year-old Marco Bay colt has five wins in 15 starts.
Bushfire, a 15-1 shot, led throughout to win the $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
Balance, who had won Grade I races at Santa Anita in her two previous outings, was a distant third at 1-2. Wait A While, the 3-1 second choice, finished second.
In the other two stakes run at Santa Anita, Foxysox, a 4-1 shot, won her third in a row in the $109,400 Providencia and Silent Name, the 6-1 fourth choice, took the $100,000 Arcadia Handicap.