The Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano passed the class test with flying colors on Saturday in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, winning by a safe three lengths and earning 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, which should be enough to lock him in for the Kentucky Derby.
The colt was already the future betting favorite for the Run to the Roses coming into the race, despite having just a maiden win and a first level allowance victory under his belt.
The colt did earn a 105 Beyer for his first start against winners, and that was higher than any figure earned by any of the winners in Derby preps to date. His preliminary Beyer for his Tampa Bay Derby win is 101.
“Today was a good performance,” Pletcher said. “He is a lot like his sire, More Than Ready; he has a great disposition and a great mind. You always worry about the variables – his first time shipping to a new place, the first time around 2 turns, the first time in a stakes. So we had a lot of variables he hadn’t seen before and he seemed to handle them real well.”
Pletcher is leaving his options open for the talented colt’s last prep for the first Saturday in May. He mentioned the March 30 Besilu Stables Florida Derby, the April 6 Wood Memorial or the April 13 Arkansas Derby as his final tune-up.
The race turned out quite well for us, as I went ahead with the colt as my top pick despite the chalky price ($2.80) and my second choice Java’s War drifted upward from his 12-1 morning line to 32-1 and rallied for the runner up spot, the $2 exacta returning $43.20.
Out west the Grade 2 San Felipe was billed as a showdown between Grade 3 Sham winner Flashback and Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis winner Flashback, but it was the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Hear the Ghost that got the job done, paying $13.80.
The colt was my second choice in the race, and we managed to knock down the recommended exacta for $38.40 and trifecta for $250.20.
We also learned yesterday that Grade 2 Risen Star winner Ive Struck a Nerve is off the Derby Trail with an ankle injury.
One race I did not wager on yesterday was the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned was getting his 2013 campaign started and was sent off at 4-5.
He stumbled badly coming out of the gate, rushed up to take the lead and drew off to win by about 25 lengths in a good looking effort.
The only problem was when he stumbled coming out of the gate jockey Brian Hernandez hit the deck, so anyone backing him got nothing as Discreet Dancer was the first horse across the wire carrying a jockey, paying $5.80.
Fort Larned grabbed a quarter, a minor injury while Hernandez survived the spill unscathed.
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Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 Clm $15,000B (12:50 ET) 5 E Street Bourbon 3-1 3 Precious Franca 5-2 7 Lucy Stragmore 4-1 4 Proud Siren 5-1
Analysis: E Street Bourbon exits a $14,000 claimer against straight three year olds where he stalked the early pace after getting bumped sideways early, and finished evenly while lugging in to finish third, beaten two lengths as the beaten chalk. He was claimed out of the race by the Ness barn that is 40% winners first off the claim. The filly makes her third start of her current form cycle and looks well spotted here facing non-winners of two or three year olds.
Precious Franca stalked the early pace, made a good middle move and took over the lead and did not have enough punch left late, coming up 2 1/2 lengths short of the top spot when shipped to Philly. She earned the top last out speed fig in that effort and catches a weak group here. The filly gets a jock upgrade from the bug to Ortiz.
WIN: #5 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 3,4,5,7
TRI: 3,5 / 3,4,5,7 / 2,3,4,5,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
AQU Race 7 OClm $50,000SAL (3:52 ET) 1 P J's Magical Wink 9-5 2 Tightend Touchdown 7-2 5 Stonecoldsteamer 3-1 8 Blue Creek 6-1
Analysis: P J's Magical Wink set the early fractions and weakened to finish fourth last out in the Toboggan (G3) in his first trip on the inner track. The gelding caught a racing strip that was playing to outside stalkers and closers that day. Two back at Philly versus Alw-1 foes her dueled for the early lead before weakening to finish fifth in a highly graded race. Three runners exited that race to win next out including the winner Summer Sunset, who came back to beat Alw-2 optional claimers on Jan. 19 here. Our top pick owns solid early and mid pace numbers and looks well spotted here dropping into a starter optional claimer.
Tightend Touchdown was the beaten favorite last out, dueling for the early lead and weakening to finish third for a $35,000 tag facing non winners of three or a race since July 27. The gelding came off a two month break two back to beat $30,000 non-winners of two or three year olds in the slop. Note the Servis barn claimed this guy back for $35,000 after losing him for $30,000 two back. The gelding has won three of his five trips on the inner track with a second. CVel departs to ride for Rice but that is no surprise.
WIN: #1 to win at 8-5 or better.
EX: 1,2 / 1,2,5,8
TRI: 1,2 / 1,2,5,8 / 1,2,5,7,8
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:
GP Race 9 Md Sp Wt (5:05 ET) 9 Mr. Right 4-1 7 Grand Jetsetter 8-1 1 Prudent Investor 3-1 8 Special 5-1
Analysis: Mr. Right is a $250,000 Keeneland purchase making his debut for the McLaughlin barn that is 10% winners with firsters. The colt is by Tapit (13% winners with debut runners) out of a Olympio mare that has dropped two foals to race, both stakes winners, Remit ($257,556) and Retap ($230,556). I usually like to back this barn second time out but this colt is working as if he has some ability, a near bullet drill on Feb. 25 at Palm Meadows.
Grand Jetsetter makes his first start off nearly a four month break here. The colt was sent off as the favorite in his debut at Calder, tracking the early pace and unable to go with the top pair in the final furlong in a third place finish. The colt popped a bullet work on Feb. 25 and the Plesa barn is 20% winners (with a +ROI) with second out maidens. The colt has four sibs that are winners, top earner stakes placed Veiled Prophet ($288,755).
WIN: #9 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 7,9 / 1,7,8,9
TRI: 7,9 / 1,7,8,9 / 1,5,7,8,9
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike each day with daily picks from Belmont and Churchill Downs or capture the 2nd jewel in the Triple Crown with Mike's Preakness Stakes package. You can also get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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Jerry SessaJerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins. Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.
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