Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano, with jockey Gary Stevens aboard. Click through the gallery to see our Top 10 picks.
Updated: April 22, 2013 12:52PM
NEW YORK — Doug O’Neill is gearing up for a Kentucky Derby repeat.
A year after winning the Derby with I’ll Have Another, the trainer is going for another — this time with Goldencents.
The 3-year-old colt came through with a huge race in winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and should be among the top contenders for the May 4 race.
O’Neill and his crew are feeling pretty good about their chances, especially after a recent workout in which Goldencents finally began to relax “big time.
“I saw a relaxed, mature horse that finished up great,” O’Neill said after Goldencents worked four furlongs in 48.40 seconds at Santa Anita last week. One more workout on Thursday, and it’s off to Louisville on Saturday.
I’ll Have Another also won the Preakness, but was scratched and retired because of a tendon injury the day before attempting to win the Belmont Stakes and capture the Triple Crown.
Goldencents is No. 4 on the AP’s final Run to the Roses’ Top 10 list of Derby contenders, with Verrazano, Orb and Revolutionary holding their spots at 1-2-3, respectively.
Verrazano, one of as many as six Derby horses for trainer Todd Pletcher, had his first workout over Churchill Downs on Sunday, covering five furlongs in 1:00.20. Pletcher-trainee Revolutionary also worked, going four furlongs in 48.80.
Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner Orb worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Sunday at Payson Park before departing for Louisville.
“This was the one we need to get behind us,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “What I liked to see was that he was very settled going to the track, warming up and coming home.”
While O’Neill will be attempting to become the seventh trainer to win back-to-back Derbys (Bob Baffert was the most recent, with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in ‘98), McGaughey will be saddling just his second Derby starter since his Easy Goer finished second to Sunday Silence in 1989.
“I’m really excited. I hope I stay excited and don’t get nervous, but I know that’s not going to happen,” McGaughey said. “If everything goes right in the next 13 days, I’ll really get excited about maybe having a chance to win.”
The only changes in the top 10 saw Itsmyluckyday move up two spots to No. 7 and Mylute move into a tie at No. 10 with Will Take Charge.
Mylute finished second in the Louisiana Derby and has a new rider in Rosie Napravnik, the nation’s fifth-leading jockey in earnings.
The 20-horse field will be chosen based on a new system of Derby qualifying points from designated races. Five of Pletcher’s horses are in the top 20, with a sixth, Lexington Stakes winner Winning Cause, at No. 21.