Tom Cooley Photography

Verrazano is More Than Ready for the KY Derby

Undefeated bluegrass-bred colt has passed every test so far.

Coolmore's insatiable appetite for new stallion prospects has led it to buy interests in a number of young American colts within the past few years. After the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) on March 9, the movers and shakers of the Irish-based bloodstock conglomerate have to be feeling pretty good about their latest purchase. Verrazano  (now co-owned by Coolmore with previous owner Let's Go Stable) had looked promising in breaking his maiden and running off with a first-level allowance, but he had not yet raced away from Gulfstream Park or at a distance greater than a mile. He overcame both hurdles as well as a jump up to stakes company with aplomb at Tampa Bay, coasting home by three lengths.

Bred in Kentucky by Emory A. Hamilton, Verrazano is a son of More Than Ready , arguably the most successful American-Australian shuttle sire in history. A son of the great Argentine sire Southern Halo out of Woodman's Girl, by Woodman, More Than Ready hails from one of the lesser branches of the great La Troienne family, that of Belle of Troy. He proved himself fully up to the standard set by fellow family members Cohoes and Cutlass Reality, winning the 2000 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) and five other stakes during his two-season career. While precocious and best in sprints, he was a game, gritty competitor who could stretch his speed over intermediate distances, running second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and two other two-turn graded races and finishing fourth in the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

Currently 18th on the American general sire list and 10th on the Australian list, More Than Ready (who was moved from Vinery to WinStar Farm in January) has sired 116 stakes winners to date. Most, like himself, have shown good form early and over sprint distances, a tendency that has netted the stallion two titles as Australia's leading sire of juveniles and one juvenile sire title in the United States (in 2010). But he has also sired top-class runners at up to 2,500 meters (around 12 furlongs), and his progeny have shown good form on both dirt and turf.

Verrazano's female line traces back to 1962 Epsom Oaks winner Monade through her Dr. Fager daughter Remedia, who produced two stakes winners to the cover of multiple French champion Blushing Groom. Much the better of the two was Too Chic, who made only eight starts but won the Maskette Stakes (gr. I) and was second in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). She, in turn, produced two top-class fillies by Mr. Prospector: Queena, the American champion older mare of 1991, and Chic Shirine, winner of the 1987 Ashland Stakes (gr. I).

Chic Shirine herself produced grade II winners Tara Roma and Waldoboro, both by Lyphard but of contrasting types as racers: While Tara Roma earned her graded black type by winning the 10-furlong Ladies' Handicap (gr. II), Waldoboro took his biggest win in the six-furlong True North Handicap (gr. II). Their different distance proclivities sum up the ambiguity of this pedigree when analyzing the true distance aptitude of Verrazano, who is out of Chic Shirine's daughter Enchanted Rock (by Giant's Causeway ).

One possible line on Verrazano's stamina comes through his close relative Hungry Island (by More Than Ready out of Chic Shirine's A.P. Indy daughter Flying Passage), a multiple grade II winner whose biggest wins have come at eight and nine furlongs but who, in fairness, has not been tested much at longer distances. Another interesting close relative to Verrazano is his half brother, the 2012 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner El Padrino  (by Pulpit), who raced like a horse that might appreciate more distance when fourth in the Florida Derby (gr. I). Unfortunately, El Padrino got a rough trip when 13th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and was sidelined for more than seven months, so he too is something of an unknown quantity over longer trips.

With a high-quality pedigree loaded with sires whose calling card was the type of brilliance that usually blended with the stamina aptitude of the mares involved, there seems little doubt that Verrazano has the physical machinery to stretch his speed to at least nine furlongs and quite possibly further if he is allowed to relax into a high cruising speed. The real test of stamina will come when he runs into something good enough to hook him in the early or middle stages of a race and take him out of that game plan. His answer will determine whether he is likely to be best remembered as a brilliant miler or as something more.