Verrazano returns to winner's circle
OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP)
Coming off a disappointing race in the Kentucky Derby, Verrazano cruised to a front-running 9-1/4 length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Ridden by John Valazquez, Verrazano ran 1-1/16 miles in 1:41.60 before a Father's Day-record crowd of 28,951. The Todd Pletcher-trained winner of the Wood Memorial returned $2.80 on a $2 win bet.
"It feels good to have him back," Velazquez said. "There didn't look to be that much speed on paper at all. I talked to Todd this morning, and he said just to come out running and make them chase you. His ears were wagging every step of the way and around the three-eighths pole I gave him a little nudge and he knew it was time to go."
A 3-year-old colt by More Than Ready from the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, Verrazano was making his first start since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that, he was 4 for 4.
Verrazano is expected to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, centerpiece of the Monmouth Park season on July 28.
"I think we got exactly what we wanted to set us up for the Haskell," said Brian Sullivan, co-owner of Let's Go Stable. "I think it makes the next six months interesting with a sprint to see who's Horse of the Year. I think we're squarely within that picture. He'll train at the Spa (Saratoga) and bring him back for the Haskell."
Reporting Star, with Angel Serpa aboard, finished second. Bethel was another 4-1/4 lengths back in third.
Itsmyluckyday, who was sent off the 6-5 second choice and was coming off a runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes, moved toward Verrazano down the backstretch but was pulled up by jockey Mike Smith.
"It felt like a left hind," Smith said. "He actually broke really sharp and was just about to go up to press Verrazano, and I felt something behind. I wasn't going to take a chance and decided it was better to be safe than sorry so I just took the cautious road."
In the day's other stakes event, Richiefromshoprite took the lead early and never looked back, going wire-to-wire in the $60,000 Dan Horn Handicap for owner Joel Kligman. The win marked the 55th consecutive year that Kligman has one at least one race at Monmouth Park.
Trained by Stacy Machiz and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Richiefromshoprite covered the mile over firm turf in 1:35.40 and paid $35.20.