Verrazano Solidifies Early Derby Favorite Role in Tampa Bay Derby Victory

The Road to the Kentucky Derby will be crowded the next six weeks with a dozen preps on tap. (Photo Cheryl Ann Quigley / Bigstock)

The Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano showed on Saturday in his victory in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby why horseplayers had already jumped on the bandwagon in Kentucky Derby future wagering.

The colt closed at 11-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Wager (KDFW) on Feb. 10 despite having just a maiden and a win first level allowance optional claimer score under his belt.

Pool 2 of the KDFW came along on March 1, and when wagering closed two days later the colt closed at 9-1, the lowest price among the 23 separate betting interests.

On Saturday he showed he is indeed the real deal, overcoming a bobble at the start, tracking the early pacesetter, opening up a clear lead at the top of the stretch and winning for fun, returning $2.80.

The margin of victory was only three lengths over the late running longshot Java’s War, but it appeared that jockey John Velazquez could have easily won by much more.

The colt earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, a slight regression off his 105 he earned beating first level optional claimers on Feb. 2.

Only three other colts have produced triple digit Beyers on the Derby Trail this year. Itsmyluckyday earned a 104 Beyer for his win in the Holy Bull and a 102 in his win in the ungraded Gulfstream Park Derby. Super Ninety Nine earned a 101 figure for his victory in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park. The 2012 juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby earned a 100 Beyer in his runner up finish in the Holy Bull.

Verrazano was down to 6-1 at GT Bets and odds were not posted at Bovada late Sunday night. Before the race the colt was listed at +500.

If Verrazano goes on to win the Kentucky Derby he will be the first to do so without running as a juvenile since Apollo in 1882.

We have seen just about every other Derby trend go by the wayside over the past decade, and that one could be history soon as well. Keep in mind the colt missed starting as a juvenile by just 24 hours. His maiden win came on New Year’s Day.

Pletcher is keeping his options open for his last Derby prep, and with 50 points in the bank with his win on Saturday there is no pressure going into his last start before the first Saturday of May.

The trainer mentioned the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial and the Arkansas Derby as a final prep.


Verrazano Wins Tampa Bay Derby



Hear the Ghost Rolls in San Felipe

Saturday’s Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park was supposed to be a showdown between Flashback and Goldencents, but a speed duel up front set things up nicely for the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Hear the Ghost.

The colt came into the race off a runner up finish in the San Pedro and was going two turns for the first time.  I figured he could handle two turns, by Ghostzapper out of a Coronado’s Quest mare that has dropped four other winners led by Grade 1 winner Mani Bhavan ($267,000), who was a sprinter.

I made the colt my second choice and thanks to the early speed duel we cashed a nice exacta good for $38.40 and a trifecta that returned $250.20.

Goldencents jockey Kevin Krigger was not exactly happy with the way the early pace developed.

“Coming into the first turn, I got him to turn off (relax), and I was surprised, as good of a rider as Julien is supposed to be, the move he made around the turn to make us have a dogfight race all the way around,” said Krigger. “Turning into the backstretch, that’s like committing suicide, you know?

“If we’re going that fast easily, that’s understandable, but to pressure a race like that…being on a favorite, that’s not a favorite’s ride at all. He (Leparoux) had the ideal scenario going into the first turn, and I mean, my horse came up tired today. There’s not much else I can say.”

Goldencents faded to finish fourth and I just think the colt may not been good enough. I am going to toss Flashback a mulligan and I expect him to run better in his next start for Baffert.

As for Hear the Ghost, I like his pedigree and connections. The colt’s Beyer came in a bit light at 93, but it was just his first go around two turns. Hollendorfer indicated he likely will bring him back in the Grade 1 $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6. Baffert likely will bring Flashback back in that race as well.


Hear the Ghost Wins San Felipe



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