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Road to the Derby Program Analysis

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The Tampa Bay Derby & The San Felipe Stakes

He Said—House Handicapper

 

She Said—Angela Hermann

 

Tampa Bay Derby

 Todd Pletcher and John Velasquez team up with Verrazano, who could be the overwhelming favorite in Saturday’s $350,000 GII Tampa Bay Derby. Verrazano has been brilliant in his two races so far, winning his debut by nearly eight lengths and his second start, an optional claiming allowance race by over 16 lengths. Though meeting a number of more seasoned rivals than he is used to, if he runs the way he has been, Verrazano will put away the rest of the speed and have plenty left to hold off his more accomplished rivals. My only concern with this is horse is that Verrazano has yet to have a serious test in terms of competition.

 Battle-tested Dynamic Sky, trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Joel Rosario for the first time, could offer the main challenge in this race. He finished second in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October followed by a dull but troubled performance in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Dynamic Sky returned to take the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay in his first start of the year and narrowly lost to wire-to-wire winner Falling Sky in the GIII Sam F. Davis last month.

 

Tampa Bay Derby

Another race in Florida, another Pletcher favorite.  Verazzano brings his undefeated record and large winning margins into Tampa for his initial stakes try and first around two turns.  Verrazano has only made two starts in his entire career. While he won both in impressive fashion, both races were right in his wheelhouse pedigree and location-wise.

Verrazano may be an easy single in all plays, but Falling Sky must be considered with the way John Terranova is firing at Tampa and the affinity this horse has shown for the Tampa Bay surface.  He may be forced to stalk as he’s done before given his outside post, and could capitalize should the strong favorite falter.

 

 San Felipe

 The GII San Felipe could be a very interesting race, though it might not have the same Kentucky Derby implications at the Tampa Bay Derby. Like Verrazano in the Tampa Derby, Flashback, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Julien Leparoux has done no wrong. Though he impressively won his first two starts, this colt’s victory in the GII Robert B. Lewis Stakes has to be taken with a grain of salt. Facing only three rivals, he was able to wire the field through slow fractions. Flashback is not going to get that kind of easy lead today. Though he might still be best, he is going to have to work for it today.

 Doug O’Neill’s Goldencents has already earned over $750,000 with victories in the GIII Sham and the GIII Delta Jackpot. He fought hard in all of his races and never gave an inch. He doesn’t look like a Kentucky Derby horse but he could be easily good enough to win this.

 

San Felipe

 A prince will be crowned in the three year old ranks in the west, with two of its best-known trainers bringing contenders to the table.  While it’s not a two horse race, all eyes will be squarely on Flashback and Goldencents in their first meeting in the San Felipe.  Both have built their credentials in different ways, but with similar styles and equally impressive workouts they should be fairly even betting-wise.  In general I side with the proven war-horse type, but Goldencents will provide zero value.  In seeking a price, it may be worth giving Omega Star another chance to stretch out, as he most likely won’t have to get the mud kicked in his face that he did in his first go around.  He won his first California race off the van from Aqueduct and Omega Star has the build and pedigree to relish some distance.  Though a Cal-bred, this horse has talent.

 

 

 

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