Highly-regarded sophomore Verrazano
makes his stakes debut against eight others March 9 in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs, rolling in off an impressive 16 3/4-length allowance optional claiming win at Gulfstream Park to just his third lifetime start.
The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, worth 50 qualifying points for the winner on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), has also attracted the top two finishers from the South Florida oval's Feb. 2 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), Falling Sky and Dynamic Sky. It will be run as race 10 with an approximate post time of 5:15 p.m. EST and has produced two Kentucky Derby winners in 32 runnings thus far—Street Sense and Super Saver.
Verrazano, a half-brother to 2011 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner El Padrino, is the likely favorite making his third start for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the 2004 Tampa Bay Derby with Dogwood Stables' Limehouse. Verrazano broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream Jan. 1 before coming back Feb. 2 to rumble in that one-mile allowance test. The son of More Than Ready earned Beyer Speed Figures of 94 and 105 for the respective efforts under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez for Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier.