January 30, 2023

Wit invades for Hollywood Derby

Wit (inside) exits a neck second to Balnikhov in the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography)

Wit has taken to the turf since switching surfaces three starts back, recording a stakes win and runner-up finishes in the Hall of Fame (G2) and Bryan Station (G3), and the three-year-old colt will seek his first major turf victory when he lines up for Saturday’s $400,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Wit heads a field of 11 sophomores in 1 1/8-mile turf affair, and the Hollywood Derby is supported on the undercard by the $100,000 Jimmy Durante (G2) for two-year-old turf fillies and $100,000 Stormy Liberal S. for turf sprinters.

A two-time graded stakes winner sprinting on the main track, Wit effectively stretched out to a two-turn mile in his last three outings, and the Practical Joke colt will try nine furlongs for the first time. His Brisnet numbers loom large, and Flavien Prat will pick up the mount on the stalker.

Cabo Spirit and Speaking Scout, the top two respective finishers from the Oct. 29 Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita, are back for the Hollywood Derby. Cabo Spirit has captured 2-of-4 starts over Del Mar’s turf, including the La Jolla (G3) in early August, and Joe Bravo retains the mount on the George Papaprodromou-trained closer.

Speaking Scout rolled to a five-length win in Oct. 1 Hawthorne Derby before checking in a half-length second in the Twilight Derby as the favorite, and the Graham Motion-trained gelding will look to strike from just off the pace with Juan Hernandez.

Celestial City will bring a two-race win streak from the East Coast, most recently winning the Oct. 22 Hill Prince (G2) at Aqueduct by a 2 1/4-length margin, and Ramon Vasquez picks up the assignment for Shug McGaughey on the up-and-coming son of Uncle Mo. Handy Dandy exits a win in the restricted Let It Ride S. on Nov. 11 for Peter Miller, and the Florida-bred son of Fury Kapacori can’t be dismissed from off the pace with Florent Geroux, recording a 3-2-0 record from five starts on Del Mar’s turf.

Other runners include Clutch Hitter, Script, Spycatcher, and War At Sea.

In the Jimmy Durante, Liguria figures to attract plenty of support in her stakes debut. The Chad Brown-trained filly exits a maiden win at Aqueduct as the favorite in her second career start, and Prat will guide the daughter of War Front.

Other contenders in the one-mile turf affair include Surfer Girl (G3) runner-up Sell the Dream, who will switch back to turf following a fourth in a man track stakes; and Thebestisyettobe, a close second last out for Phil D’Amato in a Del Mar allowance.

Quickly Park It, a restricted maiden winner on Del Mar’s turf two back, returns off a six-length triumph over open rivals in Oct. 29 Pike Place Dancer S. at Golden Gate Fields. Decorated for Life will make her U.S. debut for Simon Callaghan following a maiden tally in Ireland.

Eddie D. (G2) upsetter Whatmakessammyrun and two-time graded runner-up Lane Way rate as top contenders in the Stormy Liberal. Ten are entered for the five-furlong turf event.