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Fun Facts About the Field for the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial

By NYRA Press Office | 04/05/2013 05:23 PM ET
normandy_invasion_1_inside
Normandy Invasion
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

The field is set for Saturday’s 89th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack, and in the spirit of fun, we bring you some facts about the 10 starters you might not find in their past performances.

Verrazano (4-5)

Verrazano is named after the bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. The bridge itself was named for Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, whose travels took him to New York Bay in 1524 … Trainer Todd Pletcher says Verrazano, by More Than Ready, takes after both his sire and his Grade 2-winning half-brother El Padrino. “[Verrazano and El Padrino] are quiet horses, but they’ll let you know when they wake up. They carry a lot of conditioning, are good eaters, and have good stall habits. [Verrazano] gets the size and strength from his mother’s side, but his intelligence and good behavior remind me of More Than Ready.” … Last year, Pletcher compared eventual Wood Memorial winner Gemologist to New York Yankees star Derek Jeter, citing the colt’s professionalism and consistency. This year, he hopes Verrazano emulates Olympian sprinter Usain Bolt. “Hopefully he’ll be so far in front after 100 yards they wouldn’t be able to catch up,” Pletcher said.

 

Vyjack (4-1)

The gelded son of Into Mischief is named after owner David Wilkenfeld’s parents, Vivienne and Jack … Wilkenfeld describes Vyjack as being very “alert, smart, and full of himself. He likes to be the boss.” … In the barn, Vyjack will often amuse himself by playing with his Jolly Ball, a rubber horse toy that hangs next to his stall. “He’ll play with it for an hour at a time,” said Wilkenfeld … Mints are his favorite treats … Wilkenfeld, who describes himself as a horseplayer and an entrepreneur (he is the president of promgirl.com and simplydresses.com) has Vyjack in Pool One of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at 49-1 … The name of Wilkenfeld’s stable comes from one his favorite bets, the Pick 6.

 

NormandyInvasion (5-1)

Normandy Invasion is named for the assault on the French shores by Allied forces against the Germans in 1944, the largest amphibious operation ever to take place. . . The colt was bred by Betz Thoroughbreds, Kidder, Gainesway Farm, Graves, D.J. Stable, and Cole. Betz Thoroughbreds co-bred 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird …Trainer Chad Brown believed early on in 2012 that Normandy Invasion was one of his best 2-year-olds and was confounded when the son of Tapit finished fifth in his debut. “We were so disappointed and shocked because he had trained so well. I had plenty of babies to compare him to last year, and he was right at the head of the class”  … Normandy Invasion’s one tick might be that he does not break sharply out of the gate.

 

Elnaawi (12-1)

Elnaawi’s name is the Arabic word “desire” … The colt, who has been based at Belmont Park during the winter, will wear Polyflex glue-on horseshoes when he competes in the Wood Memorial. “Sometimes even if you’re not putting [the Polyflex shoes] on a sore horse, you put them on and come back in five weeks and do them with nails, and now the blacksmith has more of a foot to work with,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “If they don’t grow a lot in the winter, they get kind of torn up a little.” … Elnaawi is a half-brother to 2011 Cigar Mile Handicap and 2012 Woodward winner To Honor and Serve. Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who trained To Honor and Serve and nearly purchased Elnaawi as a yearling, has closely followed Elnaawi’s development. “Every few weeks [Mott] would watch him and say, ‘How’s he doing?’” said Magnuson. “We’d talk about him for fun.”

 

Mr Palmer (12-1)

The colt is named after golfing legend Arnold Palmer, a friend and golfing buddy in Florida of co-owner Greg McDonald  … According to co-owner Michael Lauffer, “Arnie” is delighted to have a racehorse who bears his name … Lauffer and McDonald bred Mr Palmer with the intent on selling him, but changed their minds … Mr Palmer, beaten 30 lengths in his first three starts, has shown significant improvement when stretched out beyond a mile with a record of 2-1-1 including the Private Terms at Laurel … Trainer Bill Mott’s assistant, Leana Willaford, describes Mr Palmer as a “mid-sized horse with a very efficient stride.”

 

Always in a Tiz (15-1)

Always in a Tiz gets his name from his sire, 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow … The strapping dark bay colt can be feisty around the barn, says trainer Dominick Schettino, but is very gentle with his daughter, Alysse … “When he sees her, he comes to the front of the stall. She talks to him. He’ll bite at you or me, but he won’t bite her” … Alysse, who is 12, maintains that Always in a Tiz is like a “big kid. He likes to play around” … The colt’s favorite treats are peppermints … He will have the services of three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel for the Wood, who in his only appearance in the race finished second aboard Jackson Bend in 2010.

 

Quinzieme Monarque (30-1)

Quinzieme Monarque (Ken-Zee-Em Mon-ark)means fifteenth monarach, a reference to  Louis XV, a beloved French monarch from the late 1700s … Breeder Anastasie Christiansen-Croy gave the horse a name that begins with the letter “Q” to honor a tradition dating back to the rescue of Quinzieme Monarque’s female family during World War II … “The Russians were coming from the east to Germany to conquer them, and the Americans were coming from the west to liberate,” Christiansen-Croy said. “The farm managers at Gestut Graditz knew the Russians were starving and would eat the horses, so they swam 26 mares [each having a name starting with a different letter of the alphabet] to safety across the Elbe River.” With the German Jockey Club requiring the first letter of those mares’ foals to match that of their dams, Christiansen-Croy and owner John M.B. O’Connor wanted to carry on the tradition. Quinzieme Monarque’s dam is Quintela, his grand-dam is Quebra, his great-grand-dam is Quebrada and his great-great grand-dam is Queen to Conquer.

 

Freedom Child (30-1)

The colt is named after part-owner Tom Wilson’s independent record label, Freedom Child Enterntainment, which has released an album by Wilson’s wife, Misty Gonzalez, entitled “Rock and Roll Freedom Show” … West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley relates how Wilson bought into the Wood Memorial contender, beginning with a visit to the Saratoga sales in 2011. “He had his hat on. He lifted up his hat during the sale, and they took it as a bid and it was the last bid. It was up on the porch at the sales pavilion. I see the girl with the sales slip walk over . . . and she puts the slip in front of his face. The bid spotter usually knows you, but [Wilson] had never been to an auction. I ran over and said, ‘Look, we have a problem. He didn’t bid.’ The horse was like $130,000. If I’m not mistaken, they sold the horse again in the ring, and he went for $140,000. Tom was so embarrassed. He said, ‘Whatever you buy, I’m in.’ I said, ‘You didn’t embarrass me.’ But he ended up buying a nice piece of Freedom Child.”

 

Go Get the Basil (30-1)

Named in honor of owner John Esposito’s father, who would always request extra basil (“Vai a prendere il basilico”) when dining at his son’s house … When he first arrived at trainer Rick Violette’s barn, the colt would not accept treats such as peppermints, according to Esposito’s wife, Maria. “It took him a couple of months, and now, when he eats them, he takes about 10 minutes to go through a single mint,” she says … Has shown improving numbers and last out earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure in finishing second on March 7.

 

Chrisandthecapper (30-1)

Chrisandthecapper is owned by Don Lombardi, the founder and proprietor of SportsCare Institute, Inc., which manages physical and occupational therapy centers in New Jersey, New York, and Florida. SportsCare Institute is the official physical therapy provider for the Brooklyn Nets … Lombardi named Chrisandthecapper for the Brooklyn Nets’ radio broadcast team of Chris Carrino (play-by-play) and Tim Capstraw (color).

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