Sightseeing, an 18-1 shot, was second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Any Given Saturday, who tired after being wide on both turns of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds.
Aside from breaking from the rail on a day when no one wanted the lead, Nobiz Like Shobiz pulled early to vie for the lead and then was forced to overcome questionable tactics from Cornelio Velasquez plus individual challenges from Any Given Saturday on the far turn and Sightseeing in the stretch.
“I think he was more focused today,” said Tagg, who gave the winner five weeks off after a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and equipped him with with blinkers for the first time on Saturday. “He didn’t gallop away by 10, but he had a pretty well-bred horse chasing him. There were some maturity things happening to him, but he’ll get better each time."
Nobiz Like Shobiz was nothing if not mature in the Wood Memorial. Where many horses refuse to offer their best effort once strangled back, Nobiz Like Shobiz handled it with aplomb, even finding another half gear inside the sixteenth pole when it appeared Sighseeing might go right by him.
“I liked that he really finished strong,” Velasquez said. “He’s a very nice horse.”
At the start, Nobiz Like Shobiz was the only horse who wanted the lead, but Velasquez was intent on stopping it, allowing the colt only enough rein to maintain his rail position while choking him back enough to keep him off the lead, which went to Flashstorm (:23 1/5) and Summer Doldrums (:47 1/5). Three paths further out, John Velazquez had his hands full with Any Given Saturday, getting hung four-wide into the clubhouse turn and barely dropping over to save just a little ground before turning up the backstretch.
At the half mile pole, Flashstorm had fallen off the pace and Velazquez turned Any Given Saturday loose to challenge the winner, who edged in front of Summer Doldrums after six furlongs in 1:10 4/5. Any Given Saturday came up alongside Nobiz Like Shobiz, and for a brief moment it looked like the pair would battle to the finish after Summer Doldrums retreated in the stretch.
“I had to go sooner than I wanted to at the half-mile pole to get up with him,” admitted Velazquez.
Once on the lead, Nobiz Like Shobiz got brave and it was evident Any Given Saturday was not going to get by. But there was a new problem on the horizon in the form of Sightseeing, a maiden winner on a six-month losing streak who was making a long, deliberate rally under Javier Castellano.
Nobiz Like Shobiz dug in and Sightseeing drifted out a bit while closing gamely. Nobiz arrived at the wire a half length in front, getting there in 1:49.46. Any Given Saturday held for third.
Elizabeth J. Valando owns and bred Nobiz Like Shobiz, a bay colt by Albert the Great --Nightstorm (Storm Cat) who is now four-for-six lifetime with earnings of $804,900 after taking Saturday's winning share of $450,000. Now it is on to the Kentucky Derby where Tagg plans the same late arrival that was met with much skepticism when he did it with Funny Cide four years ago. Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby.
“I don’t like to go down and mess around with that crowd,” Tagg said. “It’s hard on the horses to be chased around all day, every day.”
Tagg said that he was pleased with Velasquez’s ride even though it appeared horse and rider had a difference of opinion on tactics for much of the race.
“(He) throttled him back a little bit," Tagg said. "I’m glad that he did. I didn’t want him to get into a duel. I thought Cornelio handled everything really well and the horse handled everything well.”
It looks like Any Given Saturday is also headed to the Derby, although Todd Pletcher, who has several other candidates, admitted his horse must show dramatic improvement to have a chance.
“We got the four weeks off we wanted and the (graded stakes) earnings, but we will have to step it up a notch to get it done.”
Shug McGaughey, trainer of Sightseeing, will talk it over with owner Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, but said he would be inclined to pass the Derby and point for a summer campaign.
Nobiz Like Shobiz paid $3.40, $2.60, $2.10. Sightseeing returned $7.20, $3.20, and Any Given Saturday came back $2.10 to show.
It was 4 3/4 lengths back to Summer Doldrums, followed by Reptilian Smarts and Flashstorm.