Verrazano remained undefeated to win Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY. The win gave trainer Todd Pletcher his third Wood Memorial victory, having won in 2010 with Eskendereya and in 2012 with Gemologist. Let’s Go Stable, who owns Verrazano with Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, picked up their first Grade 1 win.
Longshot Chrisandthecapper grabbed the early lead and set a dawdling pace through much of the race with Verrazano, Elnaawi and Vyjack sitting just off of his pace. As the field approached the far turn, Verrazano made his move and passed Chrisandthecapper who held on to second as they reached the top of the stretch before fading. Quickly it became a battle between the undefeated pair of Verrazano and Vyjack, but Vyjack was never able to catch Verrazano. Yards before the pair reached the finish, Normandy Invasion, who’d been back in mid-pack throughout most of the race, closed in deep stretch to tag Vyjack and grab place by a neck.
Freedom Child was held by the starters at the gate and declared a non-starter.
He hasn’t done anything wrong so far,” said Pletcher of Verrazano. “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 Pletcher. “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 a little better.”
Verrazano picked up 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system and is now tied with Orb at 150 points at the top of the leaderboard. The son of More Than ready will head to Churchill Downs next Sunday to prepare for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
Normandy Invasion, who went into Saturday’s race with only 4 points, picked up 40 points for his second place finish and secured a place in the Kentucky Derby field. Vyjack added 20 points and is now sixth on the leaderboard with 70 points.
Verrazano returned $3.60, $2.70, and $2.20. Normandy Invasion paid $3.60 and $2.60 and completed the $2 exacta for $11.40. Vyjack paid $2.50 and completed the $2 trifecta for $25.80. Mr Palmer completed the $2 superfecta for $137.00. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:50:27, a new track record.
Photo: NYRA.com Photo/Courtney Heeney