With his dominating three-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, 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 on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Ive Struck a Nerve, the upset winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 23, had led the standings with 51 points, but was taken off the Kentucky Derby trail after sustaining an ankle injury during a Saturday morning workout.
Opinions and speculation were there for the taking Sunday morning on the Grade 2 San Felipe, in which favored Flashback suffered his first defeat and jockey Kevin Krigger, who rode fourth-place finisher Goldencents, was critical of the tactics used by Julien Leparoux, who rode Flashback.
Capitalizing on a bruising pace war between even-money favorite Flashback and 2-1 second choice Goldencents, Hear the Ghost came flying in deep stretch to take Saturday's Grade 2, $300,750 San Felipe at Santa Anita. The 5-1 third choice, who was making his two-turn debut for co-owners Halo Farms and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, racked up 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Verrazano, the shortest-priced individual entrant in each of the first two Kentucky Derby Future Wagers, validated the enthusiasm of ante-post bettors across the country with a smooth stakes debut win in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
Grade 2 Risen Star upsetter Ive Struck a Nerve will miss the Triple Crown series after being sidelined with an ankle injury suffered during a breeze at Fair Grounds on Saturday. The Keith Desormeaux trainee was readying for his next expected start in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans track on March 30.
Ive Struck a Nerve posted a half-mile breeze in :48 2/5 just before 9 a.m. (CST) with jockey James Graham aboard but showed signs of discomfort shortly after returning to trainer Keith Desormeaux's barn to cool out.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas declared himself "very pleased" after two of his leading three-year-olds posted workouts Tuesday in preparation for the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 16.
Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones here in January, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. A short time later, Oxbow breezed the same distance in 1:13 4/5 in his first workout since the Grade 3 LeComte romper finished fourth by just a nose in the Grade 2 Risen Star, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
This is not Doug O'Neill's first rodeo on the Triple Crown trail. The 44-year-old trainer went global last year when he came within 36 hours of a Triple Crown attempt only to have an 11th-hour tendon injury to Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another that ultimately forced his retirement.
A minority interest in Big Chief Racing's Ive Struck a Nerve, the sophomore son of Yankee Gentleman who vaulted into first on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points list with his upset win in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds on February 23, has been sold, trainer Keith Desormeaux confirmed Thursday.
The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” continues Saturday with the 33rd running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade II) and the 76th running of the $300,000 San Felipe (GII).
Flashback had little difficulty when making his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis, dominating on the front end against three overmatched rivals, but the unbeaten colt will face a much sterner class check when he faces Goldencents in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe at Santa Anita. Goldencents exits a pair of nice wins in the Grade 3 Sham and Grade 3 Delta Jackpot.
Palace Malice will run next in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30 and Edgar Prado will ride him, it was announced Wednesday by Dogwood President Cot Campbell. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt exits a close third over the Fair Grounds' track in his stakes bow, the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 23.
"He was beaten a half-length for all the money in the Risen Star, and that was the colt's first time around two turns, so the mile and an eighth race is the logical next step for this Curlin colt, one that is bred to appreciate a route," Campbell said.
Champion Shanghai Bobby continues to train forwardly for a scheduled start in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30. The dark bay son of Harlan's Holiday hasn't started in a race since suffering his first career loss in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on January 26.
Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby marks the highly-anticipated stakes debut of Verrazano, who will make his first start around two turns for Todd Pletcher following a pair of smashing victories at Gulfstream Park. A leading Kentucky Derby contender, the unbeaten colt will retain the services of John Velazquez and drew post 6 in the nine-horse field.
Vyjack secured a likely spot in the Kentucky Derby field when winning Saturday's Gotham, earning 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system for the convincing 2 1/4-length decision. After capturing his first three starts in front-running fashion, Vyjack switched gears and closed from off the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, overcoming a wide trip along the way on Aqueduct's inner track.
The second of three betting pools in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) concluded with few surprises when wagering closed early Sunday evening with a strong favorite in the “All Others” (#24) betting interest the strong 3-1 favorite over unbeaten Verrazano (#22), Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Orb (#11) and the surging Vyjack (#23), who made a major move in the pool following Saturday’s impressive win in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct.
Team Stallion Racing Stable et al's Rydilluc was using his stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach on turf as an audition for the Kentucky Derby trail. By drawing off to a flashy 3 1/2-length score, the Gary Contessa trainee remained perfect from three turf starts, and showed star potential.
That prompted a social-media celebration from his Team Stallion connections: "Derby Dreamin!"
Flashback moved a step closer to next Saturday's much-anticipated pre-Triple Crown showdown with Goldencents in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe with a five-furlong workout Sunday morning at Santa Anita in a bullet :59 under regular rider Julien Leparoux. It was the fastest of 63 drills at the distance on the fast main track.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had a very busy Sunday morning at Palm Meadows with more than a dozen stakes runners from his powerful stable hitting the worktab for upcoming stakes engagements.
Unbeaten Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano, gearing up for his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, traveled a half-mile on the fast main track in :48 1/5.
"Todd was very happy with the work and 'V' is ready," owner Let's Go Stable tweeted.
Rudy Rodriguez usually avoids looking too far into the future, but he couldn't help but express cautious optimism the morning after he picked up his biggest victory as a trainer when Vyjack came from off the pace to win Aqueduct's Grade 3 Gotham by 2 1/4 lengths on Saturday.
The victory gave Vyjack, who is unbeaten in four starts, 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" qualifying system, which likely is enough to put him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 4.
There was no change in the top two positions on Churchill Downs Racetrack’s odds board after the second day of betting in Pool 2 of the 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), but odds on unbeaten Vyjack (#23) dipped after his impressive victory in the Gotham (Grade III) at Aqueduct, Saturday’s major prep for the 139th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).