safe to say that we learned a few things over the weekend. Orb dazzled in the
Florida Derby and Revolutionary left no one uncertain about his Kentucky Derby
contender status. Today we discovered that Shanghai Bobby has been taken off
the derby trail and will get some rest before returning later this year. Among other things, we also know that this coming Saturday will be another very big
The east and west coast will both be in the spotlight as the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby bring us to only four more weeks until the 139th Kentucky Derby. It all depends on how things turn out in the Wood but if it is good news for one camp it will lead to a decision that could take weeks to figure out under different circumstances. But, time is of the essence and this decision will need to be made very soon.
mentioned that we learned a lot now that the major preps have started. Included
is that, as it stands right now, Verrazano and Orb are top five contenders.
However, Johnny V rides them both. So, while we may be up to speed on quite a bit this
is the one question that has not yet been answered; who will John Velazquez ride in
the Kentucky Derby?
for his cool and calm approach to racing world class thoroughbreds, John Velazquez has earned the honor of being asked to ride two of this year’s top
Kentucky Derby horses. Inducted into the racing hall of fame last summer, he is
most known at this time of year for three spectacular Triple Crown performances.
First is the 2011 Kentucky Derby win aboard Animal Kingdom followed by his 2007
Belmont Stakes ride on the filly Rags to Riches and second Belmont win last
year with Union Rags. The 41 year veteran has also delivered on many other occasions
outside the Triple Crown. However, all signs point to a solid position to deliver
again at the Kentucky Derby this year.
But, which horse will he choose if Verrazano picks up where he left off in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby? I don’t think anyone can forget how sharp that performance
really was but in case you forgot the best way I can describe is: lights out.
The 3 length win without breaking a sweat brought his undefeated streak to
three and leads him to Aqueduct and the Wood Memorial this weekend. Here is
where he will face the toughest competition of his career and in order to win, Verrazano will need to be ready.
general reaction is that he will be up for that challenge and the Wood
Memorial will be his final race before moving on to Churchill Downs and a
chance for Kentucky Derby glory. So, let’s say that the plan remains in place
and Verrazano takes care of business this weekend.
My opinion of what Johnny V will decide to do then is that Verrazano will be his derby horse. I could be convinced
otherwise but if you disagree then please let me know and maybe I can be swayed.
Until then here is my reasoning and why it will take a strong argument to
change my mind.
first is that the history between Johnny V and Todd Pletcher is just too hard
to ignore. They have joined forces on almost too many occasions over the years
and their success is proof that they can be an intimidating tag team. A result
of so many wins is loyalty. Therefore, it’s tough to imagine them not hooking
up this year with Verrazano and attempting to win their first Kentucky Derby
Johhny V is the only race rider that Verrazano is familiar with. In his three
lifetime starts and wins Velazquez has been in the irons. The same cannot be
said about Orb however as Joel Rosario was in the saddle for all of Orb’s first
five races. Included in that stint was a pair of wins but that streak ended at
the G2 Fountain of Youth. That was the race that Johhny V took over the reins and guided
Orb into the Graded Stakes winners circle for the very first time.
returned for only his second mount in the Florida Derby. While the ride and the
win were fantastic performances his history with Verrazano runs deeper. By that you might think I’m referring to Johnny V riding him first.
Actually that’s not the case. When you look a little closer is when you’ll see
that his connection to this colt dates back much further than the current
Kentucky Derby prep season.
Velazquez is very familiar with Verrazano’s daddy and he certainly still
remembers their quest for the Kentucky Derby together. Because of their history
I conclude this relationship as the x-factor for the decision to stick with
Todd Pletcher. In 1999, Todd Pletcher tapped Johhny V to take the mount in the
career debut for a very promising Juvenile, More Than Ready. After winning, and
then again, again, and yes………again, and again (count it 5 in a row to begin his
career) More Than Ready and John Velazquez would race together all the way through
the 2000 Kentucky Derby. On the first Saturday in May they were in contention
and wonderful position but came up short with a respectable 4th
place finish. In total, Velazquez took the mount on More Than Ready 12 times in
his 17 race career.
back, 13 years ago is when both Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez began to keep
getting better year in and year out. As history would have it, they still
remain a lethal duo today. When you put the pieces together this story becomes
a unique circumstance and snap shot of the rider-trainer relationship that has
developed over the years between TP and Johnny V.
when you add More Than Ready to the equation it seems as if Pletcher, Velazquez and
Verrazano have been a team in the making since 2000. When you look at this way I can only conclude that team Orb had better start looking for another rider. If
so, how can you blame Velazquez if he chooses Verrazano as the ship he will sail
in search of his second Kentucky Derby victory?