NEW YORK -- The easy way would have been to stay in Southern California, run Going Wild in the Santa Anita Derby, then send the colt to
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had other ideas, though, and that's why Going Wild is among the favorites in the eight-horse field for today's $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
"I've found over 25 years of experience, I'm usually better off when I stick with my first impressions," Lukas said yesterday morning from Kentucky. "I mapped it out to do that. I wanted to see him on a different surface."
After Going Wild finished second to Declan's Moon in the Santa Catalina Stakes last month, Lukas sent the rugged colt to Churchill Downs to prepare for the 1 1/8-mile Wood, New York's major Derby prep.
Going Wild thrived at Santa Anita, winning three straight races, including the San Miguel Stakes and Sham Stakes, before running second in the Santa Catalina. The bay colt has finished in the money in all seven of his races and has earned $212,420 for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis.
"I'm looking for a big effort," Lukas said. "He's a tough horse who really shows up for training. There's nothing delicate about him. You don't have to worry about going too far or too hard. I'll be very disappointed if he doesn't run a big race. I feel like I've got him ready."
Going Wild isn't Lukas' only Derby hopeful. The four-time Derby winner also trains San Felipe winner Consolidator, who runs his final prep race next Saturday in the Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Victor Espinoza will ride Going Wild, the 5-2 second choice behind Bellamy Road, the 2-1 favorite owned by Yankees' boss George Steinbrenner.
The Lewises, who won the 1997 Derby with Silver Charm and the '99 Derby with Charismatic (Lukas was the trainer), also will be in town for the race.