Run to the Roses: Verrazano moves in as AP's top Derby contender

3/12/2013 10:45 AM
By By Richard Rosenblatt AP Sports Writer

Time for a change at the top.

Verrazano replaced stablemate Shanghai Bobby at No. 1 in the AP's latest Run to the Roses' Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders on Tuesday.

The unbeaten colt ran his record to 3-0 with a comfortable three-length win in the Tampa Bay Derby over the weekend. Shanghai Bobby, who won all five of his starts last year but finished second in his only race this year in January, is second.

Both 3-year-olds are trained by Todd Pletcher, who has a chance to saddle a half-dozen horses in the Derby on May 4. He also trains sixth-ranked Revolutionary.

Hear the Ghost moved into the Top 10 for the first time at No. 7 after rallying in the stretch to beat favorite Flashback by a half-length in the San Felipe at Santa Anita.

Goldencents, ranked third last week, finished fourth in the San Felipe and dropped off the list. Risen Star winner Ive Struck a Nerve, 10th last week, was injured during a weekend workout and is off the Derby trail.

Verrazano was bought for $250,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale by Let's Go Stable, and is named for the bridge that links the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island. After his second win, a share of the colt was sold to owner/breeder Coolmore.

There's a lot to like about the son of More Than Ready, who earned 50 Derby qualifying points with the win and is all but assured a spot in the field for the 1 1/4-mile Derby.

"The way he has finished his mile and mile-and-a-16th races, I don't see another 16th being much of an issue," Pletcher said, referring to the colt's ability to run farther distances. "He has had some freakishly good performances, and some of the things he does in the morning training, we don't see too often."

"Todd's horse is a freak," said trainer Ken McPeek, whose Java War finished second to Verrazano in Tampa.

Verrazano, ridden by John Velazquez, is likely to make his final start before the Derby in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6. Pletcher added the Florida Derby on March 30 and Arkansas Derby on April 6 remain possibilities.

The Rebel at Oaklawn Park is this weekend's top Derby prep, with a full field expected, including two horses each from trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert and Pletcher.

Lukas plans to send out Oxbow and Will Take Charge, Baffert has Den's Legacy and Super Ninety Nine, and Pletcher has Capo Bastone and Delhomme.


Here's our Top 10:

1. Verrazano (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Deserves top billing with easy Tampa Bay Derby win despite grabbing a quarter after stumbling at the start. ... Plans are for one more prep. ... His three wins are by a combined 27 lengths. ... Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, April 6. ... Derby future wager odds: 9-1.

2. Shanghai Bobby (Pletcher, Rosie Napravnik): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.78 Sunday at Palm Meadows. ... Holy Bull runner-up went 5-for-5 in winning 2-year-old championship. ... Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, March 30. ... Odds: 16-1.

3. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Worked a mile in 1:46.18 Saturday at Calder. ... Trainer believes longer works suit his Holy Bull winner best. ... Next start: Florida Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.

4. Orb (Shug McGaughey, Velazquez): Trainer on track for first Derby starter since 2002. ... Fountain of Youth winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.40 Monday at Payson Park. ... Next start: Florida Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.

5. Vyjack (Rudy Rodriguez, Joel Rosario): Gotham winner is 4-0 heading into final prep. ... Can press pace or come from behind. ... Next start: Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 11-1.

6. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Withers winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.48 at Palm Meadows over weekend. ... Seems to run best with more time between races. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 30. ... Odds: 15-1.

7. Hear the Ghost (Jerry Hollendorfer, Corey Nakatani): Stretch-runner caught favorites to win San Felipe by a half-length in just third career start. ... Gelding was purchased for $40,000 by Hollendorfer and Ted Aroney's Halo Farms. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 6. ... Odds: 3-1 (mutuel field).

8. Super Ninety Nine (Bob Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Southwest winner worked 5 furlongs in 59.80 in company with Den's Legacy at Santa Anita over weekend. ... Both headed to Arkansas for next race. ... Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Saturday. ... Odds: 17-1.

9. Flashback (Bob Baffert, Julien Leparoux): Not a horse to dismiss after runner-up finish in San Felipe. ... Backstretch speed duel with Goldencents may have cost him win. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.

10. Code West (Baffert, Martin Garcia): Risen Star runner-up moves onto list after 4-furlong work in 48.20 Monday at Santa Anita. ... Maiden winner has finished in the money in all six races. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby. ... Odds 28-1.

Keep an eye on: Delhomme, Den's Legacy, Normandy Invasion, Oxbow, Uncaptured.

Follow Rosenblatt at: twitter.com/rosenblattap


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