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Verrazano Drills at Churchill Downs

At 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning there was a lot of weather checking going on at Todd Pletcher’s Churchill Downs barn.

Pletcher and his staff were covering it all ways possible – using smart phones, computers, TVs. Finally, Pletcher went to the source of sources, working through Churchill Downs’ senior director of communications Darren Rogers to talk to the National Weather Service.



After he’d heard what he needed to hear – that rain was surely en route — Pletcher put his Plan B in motion. Five of his possible six Derby horses would work today after the renovation break between 8:30-8:45 instead of their previously planned Sunday exercise. It was the best way to beat the precipitation that was likely somewhere around midday.

“I made a mistake last night and looked at the (weather) radar before I went to bed,” Pletcher said. “I didn’t sleep much. But we’re OK now; we’re going forward.”

As scheduled, his horses worked in pairs for their final serious drills prior to next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

Leading off the tandems was the undefeated Verrazano with exercise rider Humberto Zamora up, running alongside the stakes mare Authenticity under Nick Bush. Verrazano started outside and about a length behind his partner, but accelerated to go on past on the turn and finish one length the best at the wire. The splits for Verrazano were :11.80, :23.20, :35 and :47, with a final time of :59.40. The More Than Ready colt went out six furlongs in 1:13. His five-furlong marker was sixth best of 52 works at the distance Saturday.

Reed Palmer photo