Getting a picture of the horse Verrazano must simply be a bridge too far. - Chris Trotman
Just a few thoughts after yesterday's Tampa Bay Derby and San Felipe.
To my uneducated eye, Verrazano is without doubt the best 3yo out there today. As talented as he is on the track, he is equally as impressive as a physical specimen. Jeff Siegel from HRTV said it best, "He's a man". But since he's not a 2yo phenom, he probably has grown into a colt that can actually carry his talent forward through his 3yo year. (Unfortunately for race fans, if/when he puts up a major win this year, Coolmore will have him at Ashford a year from now.) After his romp at Tampa, where he earned a 101 Beyer, there is no doubt that he is deserved of the extremely early Derby Favorite tag now.
Probably most impressively with Verrazano though is the fact that he had to deal with trouble, dirt in his face, and had to respond to Johnny V in order to navigate the traffic. Getting schooled while in the race and still running away from it is a great thing. The only concerning issue is that Verrazano seemed to shy from the rail as they entered the first turn. Normally, I wouldn't be too worried, but in the Derby, it is equally as likely to get pinned on the rail as it is be ridden 8 wide due to traffic. Also, you have to be able to exploit any hole that opens, and while Mine That Bird is an exteme example with Calvin Borel literally scraping the rail with his foot, you cannot hesitate whether it's between horses, down the middle of the track, or on the rail.
Flashback. Wow. But not wow in a good way. I can honestly say I completely agree with Kevin Krigger, the jock of Goldencents, that Julien Leparoux put in an awful effort atop Flashback. Why press the pace? Why move so early? Now it may have been that Flashback just ran away from Frenchy, but still. You're geting 10% to keep that from happening. Flashback and Goldencents were completely spent coming down the stretch. But I'll tell you what, Hear the Ghost is legit. He might need to run into a ton of pace to be a legitimate threat, but if anything, you know the Derby will have plenty of pace. The race earned a 93 Beyer, which isn't great, but is just ok. But the good news for race fans is that Hear the Ghost is a gelding.
I think you need to run the favorites from the San Felipe back in the SA Derby. I think Flashback and Goldencents could roll the dice and probably get in with the points they have now, but there are things to prove. Flashback needs a better ride and needs to prove that he won't run himself out of it with his speed. Goldencents needs to keep knocking the rust off and hope he didn't completely top out as a 2yo like Doug O'Neill's other runner, He's Had Enough (who is looking to grad 100 points in the UAE Derby).
Just look at the Rebel next week at Oaklawn. Super99, Will Take Charge, Capo Bastone, Den's Legacy and more are all pointed at the race. The Florida Derby is going to be as good a race as we might see all year from the 3yo division with Shanghai Bobby, Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary, Orb, and maybe Verrazano all noted as possibles for the race. The Derby Prep season has been excellent thus far and will be even better moving forward.
I loved the points system when it was published. I love it even more now. You see the contenders having to maneuver smartly to put themselves in a position to win, but at the same time there are limited options. Should make for really good races all throughout the country from The Wood Memorial, to the Sunland Derby, you're going to see lots of really good 3yo colts matching up against each other instead of trying to avoid competition.