More Than Ready's top 3-year-old Verrazano's victory in the $1 million Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct will send the star colt to Churchill Downs as one of the favorites for $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1).
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Verrazano's big payday gave More Than Ready nearly $1.9 million in progeny earnings this year, propelling the WinStar stallion into the top 10 on the 2013 General Sire list.
The win extended Verrazano's perfect record to 4-for-4, impressively turning back the also previously undefeated Vyjack and then holding off the closing threat of Normandy Invasion to win by three-quarters of a length.
Verrazano got away without incident from post 2, running second through the early going as longshot Chrisandthecapper set leisurely fractions of 24.89 and 49.62 seconds. Verrazano took over going into the final turn, with Vyjack looming on the outside. Verrazano put that foe away in upper stretch, then dug in through the final sixteenth to hold Normandy Invasion at bay by three-quarters of a length. The winning time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.27.
“He made kind of a quick move on the turn, and then idled a little bit, and made another quick move and idled a bit, which he has a tendency to do, but a very good effort,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains for the partnership of Let’s Go Stable and Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
The victory gave Verrazano an additional 100 points on the new Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying system.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong so far,” said Pletcher, who won the 2012 Wood with WinStar Farm's Gemologist. “There’s some more preps to go, but I would say right now he’s the legitimate (Derby) favorite. The key now is to go to Churchill and get over that track well. Churchill can be a very peculiar surface, and a lot of horses don’t handle it.
“I think he’s still learning,” added the trainer of Verrazano. “He has a tendency to idle a little bit and wait on company down the lane. I thought that today he did that a little bit. It was the first time he had horses real close to him at the finish of a race, so hopefully every step we make is a learning experience for him and he learns to polish off these races off a little better.”
Verrazano, whose previous three victories came in Florida, including the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, earned $600,000 to lift his bankroll to $861,300.
“We’re happy to move forward,” said Kevin Sullivan of Let’s Go Stable. “Anything can happen at Churchill, but this kind of validates us.”