Verrazano headlines field in Tampa Bay Derby


Todd Pletcher’s much talked about Verrazano will make his stakes debut on the Road to the Kentucky Derby when he exits the starting gate in Saturday’s Grade 2 $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa, Fla. Although the More Than Ready colt has only raced in a maiden and an allowance race since he began his career New Year’s Day, the dominance he showed in both victories has made him the 4-5 favorite going into Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby.

In his previous starts, Verrazano won by a combined margin of 24 lengths and picked up Brisnet speed figures of 97 (maiden) and 104 (allowance). No one else in Saturday’s field of nine runners has earned a Brisnet rating higher than 97, and that honor goes to Eddie Kenneally’s Hutchenson Stakes (G2) winner Honorable Dillon. The challenge for Verrazano will be going two turns, something he’s yet to try.

“So it was really about timing as far as the Tampa Bay Derby goes, two-turn experience important and the fact that we were able to win 2010 in Kentucky Derby with Super Saver who started off his campaign in the Tampa Derby,” said Pletcher.  “We've had some success there before and I felt like it was a logical path to take.”