Pletcher Keeping Options Open for Verrazano
Photo: Tom Cooley Photography
Verrazano

Trainer Todd Pletcher was keeping his options open on the next start for Verrazano  , who became the early favorite for the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with his March 9 win in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II).

The day after Verrazano's dominating three-length victory at Tampa Bay Downs, Pletcher said the More Than Ready   colt could next run in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) March 30 at Gulfstream Park, the Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack, or the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 13 at Oaklawn Park.

The bay colt is owned by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith.

Verrazano earned 50 points in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" point standings, vaulting into a first-place tie and virtually assuring himself a spot in the Run for the Roses May 4 at Churchill Downs. Now 3-for-3 in his career, Verrazano earned a "preliminary" 101 Beyer speed figure for his 1 1/16-mile time of 1:43.96.

In his initial start around two turns and facing stakes competition for the first time, Verrazano stumbled at the break, grabbing a quarter on his right front leg and opening a small cut.

He recovered in a flash under his Hall of  Fame jockey, John Velazquez, and by the time the field headed up the backstretch was in prime striking position outside Falling Sky. They traded the lead for a spell, but Verrazano took over for good approaching the far turn.

Pletcher said he did not anticipate the grabbed quarter would impede Verrazano's training.

Second-place Tampa Bay Derby finisher Java's War earned 20 points to climb to eighth place with 22 points. Falling Sky, the third-place finisher and previously the winner of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay, picked up 10 points and is tied for ninth with 20. Dynamic Sky received five points for fourth and is 13th with 13.

Java's War took advantage of a relatively quick pace to rally from last place while never posing a threat to Verrazano. Falling Sky held on well for third.

Falling Sky's connections were not discouraged by the outcome.

"Obviously, Verrazano looks to be very strong, and we went toe-to-toe with him quite a way," said trainer John Terranova II. "Falling Sky came out of the race great, and now we're going to put our heads together and figure out a plan for his next start. The Arkansas Derby is a good possibility, but it still isn't etched in stone."

Ken McPeek, the trainer of Java's War, noted that the Tampa Bay Derby was only the War Pass colt's second race on dirt, and his first taste of competition since a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.

"No complaints," said McPeek, who indicated Java's War's next start would likely occur in the UAE Derby (UAE-II) March 30 at Meydan in Dubai, or the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) April 13 at Keeneland. Jockey Willie Martinez expects to travel to Dubai the final weekend of March to ride Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Trinniberg   on the Dubai World Cup card.

Martinez, after riding Java's War for the first time, said he was "very happy with his effort."

"There is no telling at this point what kind of horse Verrazano is," Martinez said. Before the race, I said he would either win by a mile or get beat by a mile, because you never know about a horse coming to run on this surface for the first time. He showed his true talent and it looks like he is the best 3-year-old in the country right now, but you never know what May will bring."

Here are the current top-20-plus horses in the standings:

Verrazano, 50; Orb  , 50; Vyjack, 50; Hear The Ghost, 50; Flashback, 30; Goldencents, 29; Shanghai Bobby  , 24; Java's War, 22; Falling Sky, 20; West Hills Giant, 20; Code West, 20; Oxbow  , 16; Dynamic Sky, 13; Speak Logistics 11; Itsmyluckyday, 10; Overanalyze  , 10; Uncaptured, 10; Den's Legacy, 10; Power Broker  , 10; Super Ninety Nine, 10; Will Take Charge, 10; Revolutionary, 10; Elnaawi, 10; Palace Malice, 10; Tiz A Minister, 10.
 

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