Resilience Earns Spot in G1 Kentucky Derby with Wood Memorial Win

by Keith McCalmont for

Emily Bushnell and Ric Waldman’s Resilience, under perfect handling by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, punched his ticket for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with a prominent score in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“His mother won going a mile and an eighth and he’s getting better,” Gargan added. “So, I’m excited to have two for the Derby, both by Good Magic.”

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Resilience, who added blinkers following a fourth-place finish last out in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, picked up the maximum allotment of 100-50-25-15-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points available to the top-five finishers in the nine-furlong test for sophomores.

Mott credited his local assistant, Leana Willaford, along with a heady ride by Velazquez, for the improved performance.

“He ran very well. Leana did a great job with him. It was a similar trip to what we were hoping for. The blinkers didn’t hurt, did they,” said Mott, who won the 2019 Wood Memorial with Tacitus.

Bred in Kentucky by Pam and Martin Wygod, the regally-bred Into Mischief colt has a strong turf pedigree out of the winning Smart Strike mare Meadowsweet, who is a half-sister to the Grade 1 and multiple graded stakes-winning Storm Cat progeny Courageous Cat and After Market – all three are out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Rahy mare Tranquility Lake. Jalil, a Group 2-winner on dirt, is also by Storm Cat and out of Tranquility Lake.

Emily Bushnell, daughter of Marty and Pam Wygod, was full of praise for the entire team.

“We’re just so excited. He showed up, and Bill has done such an amazing job with him. Johnny rode him perfectly, and we’re just so happy,” Bushnell said. “I feel so lucky to be part of this incredible horse. He has brought my family’s breeding program full circle. My father’s dedication and love for the thoroughbred industry has spanned multiple years and Resilience is the product of a broodmare line he has nurtured and it is so exciting to see him succeed at this level.”

Resilience broke alertly from the inside post and saved ground into the first turn as the Eric Cancel-piloted longshot Evening News marked the opening quarter-mile in 23.45 seconds over the fast main track with 80-1 shot Lonesome Boy in third under Adam Bowman.

Evening News maintained his lead over Lonesome Boy down the backstretch as Velazquez angled Resilience to the outside in third position with Grade 3 Gotham-winner Deterministic saving ground in fourth under Joel Rosario after a half-mile in 47.49. Evening News showed the way through three-quarters in 1:12.31 and was enveloped by a swarm of rivals through the final turn as Resilience vaulted to the lead with Society Man looming one to watch under Luis Rivera, Jr.

Resilience stayed on strong down the lane as Society Man chased and closers Protective and Grade 3 Withers-winner Uncle Heavy, who was off a step slow, began to make up ground. But there was no reeling in a runaway Resilience, who bested Society Man by 2 1/4-lengths at the wire in a final time of 1:50.28. It was a further 1 1/2-lengths back to Protective in third with Lonesome Boy and Uncle Heavy claiming the remaining Kentucky Derby points. Elysian Meadows, Tuscan Sky, Deterministic, Evening News, Merit and Gettysburg Address rounded out the order of finish. El Grande O was scratched prior to the start.

The Dexter Haddock-ridden Deposition fell when squeezed while trying to make a move between Uncle Heavy and Protective in mid-stretch and unseated his rider. Dr. Sarah Hinchliffe, NYRA’s Veterinary Department Director, reported that Deposition stood up under his own power and walked onto the equine ambulance and was transported to the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists clinic for further evaluation. Haddock was transported to local hospital for further evaluation.

Jockey John Velazquez, Jr. Discusses the Win

Velazquez picked up his fifth Wood Memorial win following past success with Eskendereya [2010], Verrazano [2013], Outwork [2016] and Vino Rosso [2018]. The veteran rider, who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby last weekend with Fierceness, said Resilience improved once he found clear racing room.

“We broke really well, which was what we wanted to do. He got a little bit aggressive, more than I wanted to in the first part. Then I put him out and he kind of relaxed better on the outside of horses,” Velazquez said. “The reason we put blinkers on is because he’s kind of hesitant in passing the horses. So, I kind of engaged him a little bit early to see if he’d pass horses and he passed them. Then I was like ‘Oh man I might’ve broken a little too soon.’ Then he just kept me busy down the lane.”

Velazquez, who guided Resilience to a fourth-out maiden score on New Year’s Day at Gulfstream Park along with his last out Risen Star effort on February 17, said the addition of blinkers was key.

“Very nice horse,” Velazquez said. “The second time I rode him, he kind of got shy away from the horses coming out and didn’t want to pass, then all of a sudden everybody passed him at the sixteenth pole. Then I said, ‘maybe blinkers will keep him smart and focused and running’ and it did today, so this is where to do it.”

Resilience banked $400,000 in victory to improve his record to 6-2-1-1 for total purse earnings of $494,630. He returned $11 for a $2 win ticket.

An emotional Rivera, Jr. was full of praise for the Danny Gargan-trained runner-up Society Man, who he guided to a fourth-out maiden win last month at the Big A.

“It means a lot. I don’t have words to explain this. We’re going on the road to the Kentucky Derby and it’s awesome,” Rivera, Jr. said. “I don’t even know how to explain it. He ran beautiful. I didn’t expect him to be that close, but the pace was a little bit easy so I got to be closer and I didn’t expect to be there. He put me in a perfect spot the whole race and whenever I asked him to go, he exploded. The horse that won was a better horse, but still, my horse showed a lot.”

Gargan sent out Dornoch, a full-brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby-winner Mage, to a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. The veteran conditioner said he was overwhelmed by the effort from Society Man, a Good Magic chestnut out of the stakes-placed Colonel John mare You Cheated.

“What a race he ran. I was super proud of him, and I thought for a minute he was going to get there,” Gargan said. “He’s learning and getting better, and obviously we’re going to look at the Derby with him. 50 [points] gets you in usually. We couldn’t be more excited.

Live racing resumes  with a first post at 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit

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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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