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Verrazano wins 1st race since Ky. Derby

OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) - Coming off a disappointing race in the Kentucky Derby, Verrazano cruised to a front-running 91/4 length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Ridden by John Valazquez, Verrazano ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 3-5 before a Father's Day-record crowd of 28,951. The Todd Pletcher-trained winner of the Wood Memorial returned $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.

"It feels good to have him back," Velazquez said. "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."

A 3-year-old colt by More Than Ready from the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, Verrazano was making his first start since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that, he was 4 for 4.

Verrazano is expected to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational, centerpiece of the Monmouth Park season on July 28th.

"I think we got exactly what we wanted to set us up for the Haskell," said Brian Sullivan, co-owner of Let's Go Stable. "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 (Saratoga) and bring him back for the Haskell."

Reporting Star, with Angel Serpa aboard, finished second and $9 and $10. Bethel was another 41/4 lengths back in third and paid $13.20 to show.

Itsmyluckyday, who was sent off the 6-5 second choice and was coming off a runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes, moved toward Verrazano down the backstretch but was pulled up by jockey Mike Smith.

"It felt like a left hind," Smith said. "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."

In the day's other stakes event, Richiefromshoprite took the lead early and never looked back, going wire-to-wire in the $60,000 Dan Horn Handicap for owner Joel Kligman. The win marked the 55th consecutive year that Kligman has one at least one race at Monmouth Park.

Trained by Stacy Machiz and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Richiefromshoprite covered the mile over firm turf in 1:35 2-5 and paid $35.20, $17 and $9. Hop Skip and Away finished second and returned $8.20 to place and $5 to show. Favored Javerre finished third but was disqualified and placed 11th for interference in the stretch. Fine Friends was moved into the show spot and paid $3.60.

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Mike Dempsey Mike 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.

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Jerry Sessa Jerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
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In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

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