TAMPA BAY DERBY | PURSE: $350,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES
Verrazano lived up to his billing as a top Triple Crown contender with a solid three-length score over eight other sophomores in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 9 at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 3-year-old son of More Than Ready picked up 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and remained undefeated in three starts for Let's Go Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith.
Verrazano, trained by Todd Pletcher, was the heavy favorite at 2-5 despite having never raced at the 1 1/16-mile distance before, which he concluded in a final time of 1:43.96. He handled the stretch-out and the challenge of his stakes debut well from the start, in spite of bobbling slightly under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who won four races at Tampa Bay on the day.
Eased back off the early lead of Falling Sky, who went the quarter in :23.50, Verrazano angled to the outside and took charge for a half in :47.69. He briefly matched strides with that contender up the backstretch as Falling Sky moved back on the inside to regain the lead, but was asked for run through three-quarters in 1:12.36 and strongly increased his advantage leaving the second turn.
Striking the stretch with a 5 1/2-length lead, Verrazano easily coasted to the victory despite a late charge on the outside from 32-1 shot Java's War. Falling Sky held for third.
Verrazano paid $2.80, $2.60, and $2.10 while Java's War returned $14.60 and $8 and Falling Sky brought $4.60. Completing the order of finish were Dynamic Sky, Eton Blue, Park City, Honorable Dillon, Offlee Fast, and Purple Egg.
Verrazano is a half brother to stakes winner El Padrino. He was bred in Kentucky by Emory A. Hamilton out of the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, and was a $250,000 purchase from the 2011 Keeneland Association September yearling sale when consigned by Middlebrook Farm, agent.om nine starts with earnings of $305,790.