There’s Nobiz Like Shobiz at Wire
With Limited Distractions, Colt Holds Off Sightseeing to Claim Wood Memorial
OZONE PARK, N.Y., April 7 — With blinkers around his eyes and cotton balls in his ears, Nobiz Like Shobiz got his mind off distractions and back on business Saturday, hustling home along the rail to win the Grade I $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and jump back into the thick of the Kentucky Derby picture.
Once the consensus leader of the 3-year-old division, Nobiz Like Shobiz lost some of his luster last month, when he lugged in badly in the stretch during the Fountain of Youth stakes at Gulfstream Park, blowing an apparent victory and finishing third.
Trainer Barclay Tagg, who said he “detested” adding blinkers to such a young horse, nevertheless believed he had to do something drastic to break what looked to be a developing bad habit. As an extra precaution, Tagg stuffed in the cotton balls to make sure Nobiz Like Shobiz focused more on the finish line and less on the crowd of 7,848 screaming from the Aqueduct grandstand.
Although the performance was far from sensational, Nobiz Like Shobiz put away Any Given Saturday, a powerful runner from the barn of Todd Pletcher, and then held off Sightseeing late to win by a halflength. The winner ran the 11⁄ 8- mile dirt race in 1 minute 49.46 seconds. By comparison, Pletcher’s 5-yearold Magna Graduate ran the same distance two races later in 1:48.10 to win Grade III Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap for older horses.
“I had a pretty good feeling about him today,” said Tagg, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2003 with Funny Cide. “They were coming down [the stretch] slowly, but they used themselves pretty good [early in the race]. He was a little rank around the first turn, but he settled pretty good.”
The Santa Anita Derby and Illinois Derby were also run Saturday, but the intrigue surrounding Nobiz Like Shobiz and his penchant for lugging appeared to be the main focus of the second-to-last weekend of principle Kentucky Derby prep races.
Starting from the inside post position in the field of six, Nobiz Like Shobiz broke sharply and raced right up with early leaders Flashstorm and Summer Doldrums. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez attempted to rein him in as they went through the first half-mile in a moderate 47.26 seconds.
With three-eighths of a mile to go, Velasquez asked Nobiz Like Shobiz to go as Any Given Saturday engaged him on his right side. Any Given Saturday had enhanced his reputation greatly in his prior start, missing by a nose to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense on March 17 in the Tampa Bay Derby. The $1.1 million colt had been penciled in for a rematch next week in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but Pletcher opted for a run in the Wood after his other planned entrant, Circular Quay, trained poorly before the race.
Any Given Saturday proved no match for Nobiz Like Shobiz in the deep stretch and faded to third, while long shot Sightseeing, who had only won a maiden race in seven starts, loomed dangerously before flattening out and missing by a halflength.
Pletcher expressed disappointment in Any Given Saturday. The leading trainer in the country saddled the colt before the race, less than 30 minutes before watching a simulcast of another of his 3-yearolds, Cowtown Cat, lead gate to wire to win the Grade II $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Park.
Pletcher had entered Cowtown Cat, who won the Gotham Stakes last month at Aqueduct, in the Wood as an insurance policy, but scratched him to run in the Illinois Derby, a 11⁄ 8- mile race he won in a slow 1:51.21.
“He didn’t really polish it off,” Pletcher said of Any Given Saturday. “He obviously took the worst of it being wide on the first turn and being three wide all the way around on the second turn. No real excuse, other than just running the longest.”
Pletcher said Any Given Saturday will go on to Churchill Downs for the Derby, and, of course, Nobiz Like Showbiz will be there waiting for him.
With the mission of focusing his horse apparently accomplished, Tagg, normally not one to entertain hypothetical questions, looked ahead to the first Saturday in May.
“I’d like him to sit fourth or fifth in the Derby,” he said. “I had a horse last year in the Derby named Showing Up and he and Barbaro were right there in perfect position. Barbaro was really in perfect position.
“There’s nothing special I can conjure up with him now. He’s just going to have to do it himself.
Racing Notes: Maryland sprint star Ah Day, far back most of the way, rallied on the turn and finished third behind Silver Wagon and Diabolical in the Grade I $300,000 Carter Handicap on the Wood Memorial undercard. Silver Wagon, who won the General George Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Laurel Park in his prior start, ran the seven-furlong race in 1:21.46 . . . Tiago, a halfbrother to 2005 Kentucky Derby long shot winner Giacomo, turned in a similar improbable late run to upset the Grade I $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at odds of 30-1. Owned by Jerry Moss, trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Mike Smith — the same connections that handled Giacomo — Tiago won the 11⁄ 8- mile Derby prep race in 1:49.51.
“I had a pretty good feeling about him today,” trainer Barclay Tagg said of Nobiz Like Shobiz, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, after their victory.