hile reflecting on the Wood Memorial
I realized that Verrazano's
career up to this point closely resembles
that of last year's Wood winner, Gemologist
. Both are Todd
Pletcher-trained Wood Memorial winners who take undefeated records to
Churchill downs. The question is, can Verrazano fare better than
Gemologist did there?
Gemologist began his career in late
September at Turfway Park. He broke his maiden at first asking in a
$22,000, 6 furlong maiden special weight. About 1 month later,
Gemologist won a $48,000, 8.5 furlong allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs. After another month, Gemologist was sent to
a Grade 2: the Kentucky Jockey Club. Gemologist ran the 8.5 furlongs
in 1:44:46 – for reference purposes, that was 3.42 seconds off the
Verrazano began his career in January,
three months later than Gemologist. He broke his maiden at first
asking in a $52,500, 6.5 furlong MSW at Gulfstream Park. Like
Gemologist, he next was entered in and won an allowance optional claiming race. Verrazano, however, remained at Gulfstream for that 8
furlong, $54,500 race. Verrazano was then given a one-month break
prior to competing in an 8.5 furlong Grade 2: the Tampa Bay Derby.
He ran the 8.5 furlongs in 1:43:96, 1.13 seconds shy of the track
Through the first three races of their
careers, Gemologist and Verrazano were handled similarly. However,
Gemologist was debuted much earlier, racing three times in his
2-year-old season before receiving a planned 4-month break over the
winter. Verrazano was not raced as a 2-year-old, but debuted January
first of 2013. Like Bodemeister last year, Verrazano will attempt to
buck the trend of Kentucky Derby losses by horses unraced in their
two year old seasons.
Gemologist made his 3-year-old debut in
an 8 furlong March allowance race at Gulfstream Park, which he won in
1:35:95. For comparison's sake, Verrazano won his 8 furlong spring
allowance race at Gulfstream in 1:34:80. As for the Wood Memorial,
Gemologist won in 1:50:96, coming home in 13:22. Verrazano won in 1:50:27 and came home in 12:55.
While comparing times a year apart does
not necessarily produce valuable data, Verrazano has shown himself to
be faster than Gemologist throughout his early career. He has been
more heavily favored in his starts, and deservedly so. While this
bodes well for Verrazano, other factors do not. He is from female
family 13-d, which has not produced successful Derby colts in the
past. He is also out of the same mare, Enchanted Rock, as El
Padrino, yet another Pletcher trainee and not a classic distance horse.
Overall, Verrazano has more going for
him than Gemologist did last year. As such, he is poised to be the
deserving favorite (Gemologist was the third choice). However, he had a very nice trip in the Wood and did not look like he was about
to hold off Normandy Invasion. He will not only be a better price
than Verrazano, but looks better-suited to handle 10 furlongs due to his breeding and the ground he was gaining in the Wood. While Verrazano's season has been very impressive thus far, taking a short price on
a Kentucky Derby favorite in a year with a very solid crop of three
year old colts is not a wise proposition.
(Very) Brief Derby Top 5
At this moment, I like the three
closers: Orb, Revolutionary, and Normandy Invasion. Vyjack looks
like a very gritty horse who may be a slight notch below others; both
he and Oxbow have the look of horses who can be used underneath.
Black Onyx interests me also, but the synthetic prep was slow.