Verrazano headlines field in Tampa Bay Derby

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A top-four finish on Saturday would put Verrazano on the board in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system. The new Kentucky Derby points system replaces the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concluded Feb. 18, the top four finishers in 19 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. A total of five Grade II and three Grade III races comprise the first leg of phase two, which began Feb. 23, in which the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. The second leg of phase two begins Mar. 30 and includes two Grade II and five Grade I events in which the top four finishers in these pre-determined races will receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The series concludes with two wild card races in which the top four finishers will be awarded 20-8-4-2 points, respectively.

If Verrazano wins the Tampa Bay Derby, the 50 points should assure him an entry in the Kentucky Derby. Verrazano is co-owned by Let’s Go Stable, the same syndicate that took El Padrino to the Kentucky Derby last year. Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard in Verrazano’s prior starts, will be in the irons Saturday.

Second choice on the morning line is Dynamic Sky at odds of 4-1. In his last start, this Mark Casse runner was second by a neck to Falling Sky in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis that was run over this track Feb. 2. The pair will face off again on Saturday. At odds of 10-1, John Terranova’s Falling Sky was given little respect for the Sam Davis victory.

As Verrazano goes to the lead, Falling Sky, who does his best running on the front-end, may try to challenge, but lacks the speed to compete with him. Dynamic Sky will likely set just off the pace. Although he hasn’t shown the speed Verrazano has, should the deep, sandy track be too tiring for Verrazano to take the field wire-to-wire, Dynamic Sky may find himself in a position to pounce as they turn for home.