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Kentucky Derby Update: Verrazano likely for Wood


For the fifth consecutive Kentucky Derby prep, a horse with one or less qualifying points emerged the victor. The first Kentucky Derby contender to join the fifty point club this past weekend was Verrazano, who dominated the field en route to winning the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. Following that effort later in the afternoon, and in thrilling come from behind fashion, was Hear the Ghost in the G2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. 
 
Verrazano Shines 
 
Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Let’s Go Stable, the son of More Than Ready has long since been an expected derby contender. But, because he waited until now to make his graded stakes and two turn race debut, his status was also met with some speculation. Fortunately for those that had him in their corner they can pat themselves on the back because Verrazano gamely answered the bell.
 
 
Key chart statistics in the win – The final time was a very swift 1:43.96, less than a full second behind the TB Derby stakes record of 1:43.11 set by eventual Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in 2007. The beyer speed figure earned by Verrazano was 101. Both of these stats are most impressive because he required very little urging by jockey John Velazquez and received very little pressure from anyone else in the field.
 
 
Verrazano Updates - Despite bobbling slightly out of the starting gate Velazquez was able to settle him nicely before finding the lead and putting the field away. It has been confirmed by Pletcher that Verrazano has returned to his barn in good order so it’s back to training and gearing up for his next Kentucky Derby prep race.
 
 
There was much debate following the TB Derby as to where Verrazano would race next. But, it has since been confirmed by Pletcher that he is “90 percent certain” that the G1 Wood Memorial will be it. Verrazano has returned to Palm Meadows for training along with many other 3-yr-old stable mates.
 
 
Strategy Moves for Two Todd Pletcher Derby Hopefuls
 
 
Nothing has been confirmed yet but it is beginning to become more likely that Todd Pletcher will call an audible on a pair of horses in his barn. He obviously has a strong feeling that Verrazano has a much better chance of winning the Wood than Overanalyze does so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he is moving him in another direction. And, since he remained locked in at 10 points after a disappointing 5th in the G3 Gotham, it now makes much more since to steer him away from Verrazano and to go for points some where else. The probable race that is beginning to surface is the G3 Sunland Derby, the final race in the first leg of the Championship Series on March 24 (Also worth 50 points for the winner).
 
 
The other notable switch involves Capo Bastone (4 points). Instead of the G2 Rebel Stakes this weekend, the recent allowance winner will be entered in the G3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway next weekend, March 23. This seems to be another strategic move for points that was made possible due to Capo’s experience on the Polytrack. If he does move forward in this direction it will be his first race on a synthetic surface since finishing 4th in the G1 Del Mar Futurity last September. Because the field for the Spiral doesn’t look as deep as the upcoming Rebel this move could turn into a very nice play.
 
 
Hear the Ghost Makes a Statement
 
 
The last two runnings of the Kentucky Derby became the first victory for all three connections (Owner, Trainer and Jockey). With their win in the San Felipe Stakes, another team in search of their first has now stepped onto the stage. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Owned by Halo Farms and Jerry Hollendorfer, and trained by Jerry as well, this trio made quite the splash over the weekend with a spectacular close by Hear the Ghost.
 
 
Flying late from well off the sizzling pace set by Flashback and Goldencents, the son of Ghostzapper rallied soundly down the stretch to get by Flashback before the wire. The win became his first graded stakes victory in his graded stakes debut. If his pedigree tells you anything, especially if you focus on his daddy, the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ mile should be easy to handle for Hear the Ghost. What will be interesting to see is if he stays closer to the front his next time out in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.
 
 
Key chart statistics in the win – The final time was a modest 1:42.34. Although he came storming down the lane behind very quick fractions out front his Beyer speed rating was posted at 93.
 
 
Hear the Ghost Updates – In other good news for our recent winners it has also been confirmed that Hear the Ghost reported back to his barn in good condition. Therefore, there’s nothing ahead of him in the near future except the obvious: more training and one more prep race. That prep race, as expected, will be the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6th.
 
 
Probables for the SA Derby
 
 
Trainer Bob Baffert has also confirmed that he will keep Flashback (30 points) on the west coast and return him next in the Santa Anita Derby as well. The race has the make-up of a rematch between what should now be considered two legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders. To add a little flare to the equation it has also been suggested that Goldencents (29 points) is likely to return. Finally, third place finisher Tiz a Minister (10 points) is also expected to enter. 
 
 
If any of these three horses are likely to opt out, as the Grade 1 approaches, Goldencents would be the one. There is much speculation on his ability to carry the Kentucky Derby distance but there is still time to rectify that assumption and prove he is game enough to handle it. As for the jockey duel out front in the San Felipe Stakes there may be very little ramifications that will come of it. One however that does pose itself as a possibility is a rider change. I have not heard anything for certain but I will not be surprised if Baffert elects to replace Julien Leparoux on Flashback moving forward.
 
 
Speaking of Flashback, and Bob Baffert, I highly recommend this rather interesting perspective on his performance in the San Felipe and how it resembled a very memorable Kentucky Derby champion. Zipse at the Track - Too Early to Dismiss Flashback
 
 
Off the Kentucky Derby Trail
 
 
By now I’m sure everyone is familiar with the news that Ive Struck a Nerve has been taken off of the Kentucky Derby trail once an ankle injury was discovered after a workout on the morning of March 9. While that is very disappointing news for him and his team, the injury does not appear to be career threatening. So, the good news is that while the injury will likely sideline the colt for at least six months, he should then be able to return to racing.
 
Workouts
 
For anyone that missed it but is interested in the recent works from a few of our 2013 Kentucky Derby contenders then here is your most recent workout report.
 

 

Up Next

 

There is only one Kentucky Derby Prep / Qualification Race on the docket this weekend but it will be a full house in the starting gate and it should be a good one.  

 

G2 Rebel Stakes - Probable Starters

 

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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby Update: Verrazano likely for Wood...

The concern that Verrazano did not race as 2-y.o. is so inconsequential that it is laughable. So if had run 1 day sooner than he did, nobody would bring it up -- it's so silly. Times are different for the "modern" racehorse, horses are winning Derbies with 4 starts, having never run on conventional dirt, etc. These days it hardly matters -- tack 'em all up and send 'em out and the strongest, fastest one will generally find the wire first even if they may be a bot short on stamina. Verrazano has as good a shot at winning the Derby as any horse on the trail right now.
Will Verrazano set the pace in the Wood?
Andy, at this point in 2008 Big Brown had one allowance score as a 3 YO. Verrazano- I wish he had a start at 2 YO.
This young colt needs to learn to respond to early pressure...You don't get that in works.
I would take the colt to Churchill and gallop him and work him into the Derby correctly
Great question. I'm not sure either but it sure is possible. Options that come to mind could be Balance the Books or Rydilluc in the Spiral - Shakin It Up or Titletown Five in the Sunland.
I'm not sure, but it seems like the Derby has gotten a bit clearer. Do you think there are any zero point horses left that will win a big prep race?

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