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Kentucky Derby: Verrazano brings Let's Go Stable back to Louisville
By Nicole Russo
Lightning has seemingly struck twice for Let's Go Stable and the young broodmare Enchanted Rock.
One year after watching their Grade 2 winner El Padrino finish 13th in the Kentucky Derby, Let's Go Stable principals Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan have arrived back at Churchill Downs with unbeaten Wood Memorial winner Verrazano, campaigned in partnership with Coolmore. Both colts are out of Enchanted Rock and were bred by Emory Hamilton, who owns the 9-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway.
Despite reaching the Kentucky Derby with legitimate contenders in back-to-back years after only being in operation since 2006, Scatuorchio and Sullivan, who are brothers-in-law, say they aren't taking the success for granted.
"It's the hardest race to win in the world," Sullivan said. "It is a feat to get here in itself. We're not trying to take anything for granted. We're happy and just looking forward to Saturday."
Trainer Todd Pletcher signed the ticket for El Padrino, a $210,000 son of Pulpit purchased from the Middlebrook Farm consignment at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.
"We really liked El Padrino early on," Scatuorchio said. "We always saw him as a classic-type horse and he was training exceptionally well as a 2-year-old."
El Padrino spent the summer of 2011 at Saratoga Race Course, where he finished second, beaten less than a length, in his career debut. During that race meet, Scatuorchio and Sullivan bumped into Hamilton, who was enthused about the colt's half-brother, by More Than Ready.
"Knowing what we had with El Padrino and the potential that he had, we were attracted immediately into looking at the colt," Scatuorchio said. "And once we saw him on the grounds, that basically gave us enough to really decide to pull the trigger on him."
Let's Go Stable went to $250,000 to acquire the yearling, later named Verrazano, from the Middlebrook consignment at the 2011 Keeneland September sale.
"It was obviously, looking back on it, a wonderful bargain," Scatuorchio said.
While arriving back at the Kentucky Derby is special, this one is doubly so for Scatuorchio. Verrazano's sire, More Than Ready, was campaigned by his father, Jim Scatuorchio, to win four career graded stakes, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop. The colt was among Pletcher's first set of Kentucky Derby starters, finishing a creditable fourth in the 2000 edition.
Now standing at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., after entering stud in 2001 at Vinery near Lexington, Ky., More Than Ready has to date sired 1,034 winners, including 117 stakes winners, for total earnings of $96,539,548. Many of his top runners have excelled on turf, including Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner More Than Real, and Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready. Also a popular shuttle sire in Australia, he has produced champions More Joyous, Phelan Ready, and Sebring on that continent.
"I think it's really cool," Kevin Scatuorchio said about arriving at the Kentucky Derby with a son of his father's horse. "I think for him to be [one of the favorites] too and to be four-for-four, it's something that you couldn't write. It's really cool."
Meanwhile, Enchanted Rock, who is owned by Hamilton, has a 2-year-old filly, La Madrina, by Tapit, a son of Pulpit. The mare also has a yearling filly and a suckling colt by Pulpit; the latter is from the final crop of the former Claiborne Farm stallion, who died in December.
Out of the Grade 1-winning Mr. Prospector mare Chic Shrine, Enchanted Rock is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Tara Roma, who is the dam of Grade 1 winner Serra Lake and Grade 3 winner Cappuchino and the granddam of Grade 3 winner Coal Play. She is also a half-sister to winner Flying Passage, who is the dam of Grade 2 winner Hungry Island—a daughter of More Than Ready—and Grade 2 winner Soaring Empire; to Chic Corine, dam of Grade 3 winner Somali Lemonade; to Grade 2 winner Waldoboro; and to Mayan Maiden, granddam of Grade 2 winner Al Khali.
Verrazano's third dam, Grade 1 winner Too Chic, produced Chic Shirine’s full sister and champion older mare Queena. Queena in turn produced Grade 1 winner and sire Brahms and Grade 3 winner La Reina.
Verrazano is one of three half-siblings to previous Kentucky Derby starters in this year's field. Will Take Charge is a half-brother to Take Charge Indy, who finished 19th last year, while Golden Soul's half-brother Quinton's Gold Rush was eased during the stretch in the 2004 edition.
If Verrazano is to perform better than El Padrino, he will have to do so against a contentious field, which Sullivan believes is even stronger thanks to the implementation of Churchill Downs' new point qualifying system for the race. The series heavily rewarded victories in two-turn races for 3-year-olds, while eliminating many early-season sprint stakes for juveniles.
"I think the points system has kind of culled those horses out, and you have a group of horses that are all tested at a mile or better," Sullivan said "I don't think you can really look at any horse in the field and say, 'I don't think he's going to get the distance.' Now, [whether] any of these horses want to go a mile and a quarter, we'll find out on Saturday. But I don't think you can [look at any horse and] say, 'This is a six-furlong horse.'"