The $150,000, Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park was billed as a battle between Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday, two of the Derby Trail favorites. Verrazano was returning to the races after his poor showing in the Derby and Itsmyluckyday had skipped the Belmont Stakes after his strong second place finish in the Preakness.
The race started just as was
expected. John Velazquez put Verrazano on the lead in an easy first quarter of :24-4. At that point Mike Smith
sensed the slow pace and moved Itsmyluckyday into contention with the leader.
Shortly after, however, Smith felt something go wrong his colt, and he pulled him up on the backstretch.
As Verrazano cruised to an effortless 9¼ length victory, attention turned to the welfare of Itsmyluckyday. Smith described what happened, “It
felt like a left hind. He actually broke really sharp and was just about
to go up to press Verrazano and I felt something behind. I wasn’t going
to take a chance and decided it was better to be safe than sorry so I just took
the cautious road.”
Thanks to the fast and prudent decision
of the Hall of Fame jockey, Itsmyluckyday was able to walk onto the van to be
further evaluated in his stall in Eddie Plesa’s barn.
Verrazano recorded his fifth win in six
career starts. Velazquez, who has been aboard the Todd Pletcher trainee in all
of those races, recorded his 5,002nd career win in the Pegasus. “It
feels good to have him back,” said Johnny V. “There didn’t look to be
that much speed on paper at all. I talked to Todd this morning and he
said just to come out running and make them chase you. His ears were
wagging every step of the way and around the 3/8ths pole I gave him a little
nudge and he knew it was time to go.”
Brian Sullivan, a partner in Let’s Go
Racing, said, “It was what we were looking for. I think we got exactly what
we wanted to set us up for the Haskell. I think it makes the next six months interesting with a sprint to see who’s
Horse of the Year. I think we’re squarely within that picture. He’ll train at the Spa and bring him back for the Haskell (July 28).”
Verrazano will leave for
Saratoga at 5am on Monday morning. At the same time, we all await further good news on the status of Itsmyluckyday.