02/02/2013 4:03PM

Gulfstream Park: Verrazano earns shot at Kentucky Derby prep with dominant victory

Courtney Heeney
Trainer Todd Pletcher says his 3-year-old Verrazano, ridden by John Velazquez, will run next in a graded stakes after easily winning a first-level allowance Saturday.

Verrazano wowed not only the crowd but his trainer, Todd Pletcher, as well when cruising to as easy-as-can-be 16 1/4-length victory over Eton Blue in Saturday’s fifth race at Gulfstream Park, carded at a mile under first-level optional $75,000 claiming conditions. Verrazano was never asked to run by jockey John Velazquez in what proved to be little more than a paid workout. It was the second one-sided win in as many starts for Verrazano.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

“That was about as impressive as you’ll see one run,” said Pletcher. “We were anticipating a good race, hoping for a good race, were encouraged going into the race and even more so coming out.”

Pletcher said Verrazano, a half-brother to El Padrino, will try graded stakes company for the first time in his next start but is not exactly sure where just yet.

“He’s obviously earned the right to step up into a big one, but we kind of have to figure out the timing of it,” said Pletcher. “We’re a little close to the Fountain of Youth, so it probably won’t be there. The timing of it might just force us to make a move with him somewhere. We’ll just have to see where that will be.”