Hard-Closer Vino Rosso Hopes to Pull Surprise in Derby

vino rossi

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 1:56 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2018 1:56 PM UTC

Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso has enough closing speed and a great jockey to be considered for inclusion in exotic Kentucky Derby wagers such as trifectas or superfectas.

Kentucky Derby Top Contenders Preview: Vino Rosso

With such a strong Kentucky Derby field this year, it will be a tough handicap but good for those who can end up picking the winning horse or the right combination of Win, Place and Show (and fourth place for superfecta and other exotic bettors) finishers, with an almost unpredictable finish guaranteed this time after the race favorite has five straight wins in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

When a horse as good a Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso has the 7th-lowest odds in the futures bet marketplace for the Derby, then you know it’s a really strong crop of 3-year-olds ready to pound the dirt (or mud maybe) on May 5 in in Louisville (6:30 p.m. ET; NBC). One of the four Todd Pletcher-trained entrants in the big race, Vino Rosso (11/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) proved again that he has the closing speed with his Super Six prep race win in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, which earned him a needed 100 points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The chestnut colt came through when it mattered most, winning the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 7 and beating race favorite and 2nd-place finisher Enticed (25/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada), 3rd-place finisher Restoring Hope and 4th-place horse Firenze Fire (55/1 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes).

Vino Rosso, sired by 2-time Horse of the Year Curlin, was purchased for $410,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by co-owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable and he won his first two races as a 2-year-old. In his first race as a 3-year-old, he finished 3rd in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), finishing hard but losing to Flameaway (33/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) with Catholic Boy finishing in 2nd place on Feb. 10 but then it was a big burp a month later on March 10 in Vino Rosso’s fourth career race, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), where he ended up finishing 4th behind race-winner and Kentucky Derby dark horse Quip (40/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada), 2nd-place horse Flameaway (again) and 3rd-place finisher World of Trouble. So looking at this, one would think Vino Rosso — who, sitting on a measly 7 points at the time, needed to win the Wood Memorial to get to Churchill Downs — will have to beat Flameaway to be the upset story at the Kentucky Derby? Nope. It will probably be a free-for-all with being in the right spot as the pack hits the homestretch.

This Vino Rosso-Flameway theoretical head-to-head non-dilemma shows how deep in talent this prospective 20-horse field really is because thoroughbreds like Vino Rosso, Flameaway and Quip can’t just be thrown out despite the presence of potential elite speedsters with high expectations like Audible (+670 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes), UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn (+670 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes), Santa Anita Derby winner Justify (4/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) and 2nd-place finisher Bolt d'Oro (9/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) and Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon (8/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) all in the race. And, past performances are no guaranteed predictor of future races.

Rebounding quickly and at the perfect time after that 4th-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby to win the Wood Memorial was absolutely huge for Pletcher and Vino Rosso, who was jockeyed by John Velazquez in the Wood. Velazquez, who was in saddle for Pletcher’s winner Always Dreaming in last year’s Kentucky Derby, reportedly decided on Vino Rosso after also riding two of Pletcher’s other derby contenders, Audible and Noble Indy (+2250, 5Dimes). This decision speaks volumes. Magnum Moon is the fourth Pletcher-trained horse who will look to win the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown in 11 days (Will There Be a Triple Crown Winner? Yes +600, No -900, 5Dimes).

Best 2018 Beyer Speed FIS

Looking at the best Beyer Speed Figures for the calendar year, we can see Vino Rosso registering an impressive 98 at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Wood Memorial in a race in which he closed like a champion and looked more than willing to keep running, meaning the 1½-mile Kentucky Derby could be the perfect distance for him. The timely win at the Wood Memorial may have opened up the opportunity of a lifetime although a 2nd-place finish would have earned him 40 points and a total of 47 — still enough to make the qualification cut.

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But can Vino Rosso possibly win the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby and is he worth consideration for inclusion in exotics with your horse racing picks? Yes and yes. Watching the exciting Wood Memorial, you can see how the horse never had the luxury or the rail or a short trip, and jockey Velazquez saved him brilliantly for the last half of the race and in the homestretch, it became a neck-and-neck battle between Vino Rosso and race favorite Enticed with Vino Rosso seemingly shifting even into a higher gear to fish strong and won by 3 lengths at Aqueduct. Having that “higher gear” at that point is something special although it seems out-sprinting studs like Mendelssohn, Justify and stablemates Audible and Magnum Moon (and others) may be asking a lot for Vino Rosso.

Although it’s probably a dream in the 20-horse 2018 Run For The Roses with so much talent, with a better trip and a presence in the final pack as they hit home at Churchill Downs, this horse proved he has the closing speed and instincts to beat real quality opponents. It’s hard to imagine Vino Rosso not finishing in the top 10 and his post position draw, start in the race and chosen attack philosophy by jockey Velazquez will be huge and stalking for half the race and then letting him fly might just work again on the first Saturday in May. And you know with Velazquez jockeying last year’s Kentucky Derby winner and Pletcher training winner Always Dreaming, expectations will be high for Vino Rosso, who has seen some action in the future market, going down from 25/1 odds on Feb. 20 to his current high now of 16/1 (Bovada).

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