Verrazano held off a fast-closing Normandy Invasion to win the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct on Saturday to remain undefeated in four career starts.
Tracking pedestrian fractions of :24.89 and :49.62 set by long shot Chrisandthecapper, Verrazano assumed command at will. Vyjack took a run at him at the head of the lane as Normandy Invasion was maneuvered into striking position by Javier Castellano.
Under a confident ride by John Velazquez, Verrazano shrugged off Vyjack in the lane and had enough left to keep Normandy Invasion at bay to prevail on the line. The winner, a son of More Than Ready, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.27. Normandy Invasion finished second and previously unbeaten Vyjack held third.
“He made kind of a quick move on the turn, and then idled a little bit, and made another quick move and idled a bit, which he has a tendency to do, but a very good effort,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “This race was not only a building block but a very significant race in its own right. I thought he handled everything really well. He’s been very professional. He shipped into Tampa the day of the race, shipped in here only a few days ago and came over from Belmont just a few hours ago. Nothing seems to faze him.”
Verrazano, owned by Let’s Go Stable, captured the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) in his previous start for Pletcher. Velazquez will have a big decision to make in the coming days as he is also the regular rider of Florida Derby (G1) winner Orb. Pletcher offered his take on the decision.
“We’ll see. I guess we’re going to have to pin him down here at some point,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty long history and a lot of success together over the years, and I think it would be pretty hard to take off an undefeated horse, but we’ll see what he says. I’m probably a little more flexible than the owners [in terms of when Velazquez makes a decision], but we’ll need a decision here fairly soon.”
NYRA photo by David Alcosser