Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Pletchers' Verrazano plans go beyond Tampa Bay Derby

OLDSMAR

It is time to move up in class. Time to win. Time to make the mentor proud.

For Verrazano, the 3-year-old colt named after a 16th century Italian explorer, life has been grand. He is unbeaten and unchallenged under five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his first two starts by 24 combined lengths. He enters today's Grade II $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby as the individual favorite in the first two Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools.

Watching trackside at Tampa Bay Downs will be J.J. Pletcher, Todd's father, who broke and trained Verrazano at his Payton Training Center in Ocala. While the 1�-mile Tampa Bay Derby will be the first start at two turns and first against stakes company for Verrazano, J.J. Pletcher is expecting big things from the budding star.

"We'll be very disappointed if he doesn't go in another real impressive race," said Pletcher, 75, who has been involved with horses for 50 years.

The Tampa Bay Derby is consequential on Festival Day. With today's winner earning 50 points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby series, a starting spot is virtually assured in the May 4 Triple Crown race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Today's nine-horse field includes Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Falling Sky, Davis runner­up Dynamic Sky, Hutcheson Stakes winner Honorable Dillon and local favorite Purple Egg. Verrazano, who has no Kentucky Derby qualifying points, starts from post 6 with jockey John Velazquez. The Tampa Bay Derby is Race 10 scheduled for 5:15 p.m.

Todd Pletcher is trying the same route that has produced his only Kentucky Derby winner. In 2010, Super Saver finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher is 1-for-10 at the Tampa Bay Derby, winning with Limehouse in 2004. But six of those starters advanced to the Kentucky Derby.

Verrazano's stock has risen after victories at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. After breaking his maiden Jan. 1 by 7¾ lengths at 6½ furlongs, he dominated a 1-mile allowance race Feb. 2 by 16¼ lengths.

"(His progress) has been pretty straightforward," Pletcher, 45, said. "What you saw in his allowance win was very impressive. He's very professional. He's got that unique quality of speed and stamina to go with it. He's come along really, really well in the last few months."

J.J. Pletcher got Verrazano in September 2011 after Let's Go Stable, owned by brothers-in-law Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan, purchased him for $250,000 at the Keeneland (Ky.) yearling sale. Verrazano was galloped regularly until the following February, when time came for his first breeze. The bay colt made an immediate impression.

"You know the good ones when you see them," J.J. Pletcher said. "They're like athletes and do everything so easy. When they do breeze, they're breezing easily and you think, 'Man, what's he doing?' You look down and he's going real fast. You can do whatever you want to with him — place him up close or come from behind. He is laid back and has got a real good mind."

After Verrazano's allowance victory, the Coolmore team of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor purchased an interest in the Kentucky-bred at an undisclosed price.

Verrazano didn't race at 2 years old because of sore shins, J.J. Pletcher said.

"That's something that goes along with real young horses," he said.

J.J. is familiar with Verrazano's bloodlines. He broke his sire, More Than Ready, and half-brother, El Padrino. More Than Ready was a Grade I winner who never won farther than 7 furlongs. He was among Todd Pletcher's first group of Kentucky Derby starters in 2000 and finished fourth. El Padrino won the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in 2012 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and was 13th in the Kentucky Derby last year. El Padrino was the first foal out of Verrazano's dam, Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock.

The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882. If Verrazano can keep pace with More Than Ready, who started his career with five consecutive victories, the Pletchers would be pleased. That fifth win would come on the first Saturday in May in Kentucky.

Comments
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG – Speaking of openers, the Rays will start RHP Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) for the fourth time this season, the second time in 48 hours vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old Romo did not make it out of the first inning Friday, allowin...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Published: 05/26/18
RAYSREPORT

RAYSREPORT

Today: vs. Orioles1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of gamePromotion: Raymond children’s book for kids 14 ...
Published: 05/26/18
Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, o...
Published: 05/26/18

For starters: Rays vs. Orioles; Ryne Stanek makes first start, Carlos Gomez returns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' bullpenning experiment continues, with right-hander Ryne Stanek to open this afternoon's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10.It is the first career start for Stanek, who has ...
Published: 05/26/18