Verrazano Will Overcome Wood Memorial Jinx and Prevail at Kentucky Derby

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2013

May 2, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Exercise rider Humberto Zamora jogs Verrazano in preparation for the Kentucky Derby during morning workouts at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Don't worry about the supposed Wood Memorial jinx when it comes to Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano.

The horse won the 2013 Wood Memorial, leading some to question what his chances are at Churchill Downs. The last horse to win the Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby in succession was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Here are the results of the horses at the Derby following that win:

Year Horse Derby Finish
2001 Congaree 3
2002 Buddha DNR
2003 Empire Maker 2
2004 Tapit 9
2005 Bellamy Road 7
2006 Bob and John 17
2007 Nobiz Like Shobiz 10
2008 Tale of Ekati 4
2009 I Want Revenge DNR


2011 Toby's Corner DNR
2012 Gemologist 16

That's not really a strong history; however, it's one that Verrazano should be able to deviate from. He's got everything you could possibly want from a top contender.

In the buildup to the race, Verrazano has looked great on the track. He's won four races in a row and looked very good in each one of them.

Verrazano got pushed hard by Normandy Invasion at the Wood Memorial but managed to win by three-quarters of a length.

In a way, a close finish like that is almost more encouraging. It's great for a horse to heavily beat the other competitors in a race. With the Wood Memorial, fans saw that Verrazano can win the close ones and hang back off the pace before making a late push. Now, his opponents will have to be wary of that possible final kick if Verrazano is not among the leaders.

That extra variable will keep the other horses honest in the Derby.

Aside from the quality of the horse, this is a team that's built to win.

Todd Pletcher is one of the best trainers in the United States. He's got five horses in the Kentucky Derby field. As good as he's been over the past few years, success has largely eluded him at Churchill Downs (h/t ESPN Stats and Info):

You can count on the fact that he's itching to get that second win. There are plenty of legendary trainers who've never even won a Kentucky Derby, but it's a bit like a Hall of Famer coming up short in the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, etc. on multiple occasions. It doesn't stop a person from being considered great, but it can become a defining characteristic of his or her career.

Luckily for Pletcher, he's got a great jockey in John Velazquez. Now, there's no doubt as to whether he'll be able to return from the rib and wrist injuries he suffered back in April. He returned to the track on Thursday (h/t The Washington Post).

Velazquez's no stranger to success at the Kentucky Derby, having won in 2011 with Animal Kingdom.

Orb and Goldencents will be tough competition on Saturday. It will be Verrazano, though, who will emerge victorious.