06/14/2013 1:46PM

Monmouth: Kentucky Derby also-rans Verrazano, Itsmyluckyday rematched in Pegasus

Barbara D. Livingston
Verrazano will try to regroup from a 14th place finish in the Kentucky Derby and get a feel for Monmouth's main track before the Haskell Invitational in Sunday's Pegasus.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – The first major stakes for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown is a good one: a rematch between Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday on Sunday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The Pegasus kicks off the second half of the season for the division. It also serves a prep for the meet’s premier event – and the long-range target for Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday – the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 28.

Neither of the two headliners fared well in their prior meeting in the Kentucky Derby. Both struggled in the slop at Churchill Downs.

Verrazano went into the Derby undefeated in four races, including the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. He ran 14th, sustaining a hock gash that trainer Todd Pletcher said healed in a matter of days.

Itsmyluckyday was 15th, a major disappointment after running second to eventual Derby winner Orb in the Florida Derby.

And now they meet again, facing five outclassed rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Verrazano makes his first start since the Derby.

“Pretty much after the Derby we decided we weren’t going to run in the Preakness or the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “Our main focus became the Haskell. I felt it was a little too much time to train, from the Derby to the Haskell. I was trying to find a nice bridge to that and felt like this made the most sense, six weeks after the Derby and six weeks to the Haskell. We get a race over the track, so it seemed like a logical spot.”

Itsmyluckyday remained on the Triple Crown trail, bouncing back nicely to run second to Oxbow in the Preakness. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. never considered the Belmont Stakes.

“Not even one little itty-bitty thought,” Plesa said. “Our concern all along was the Derby, the Preakness, and the Haskell. You could look at it that Palace Malice had our kind of trip in the Belmont, but we never gave the race a thought at all.”

Itsmyluckyday will have the services of Mike Smith, the Belmont Stakes-winning jockey, as they break from post 6.

John Velazquez, aboard Itsmyluckyday for the Preakness, will honor his long-running relationship with Pletcher and Verrazano.

“We understand that Johnny V had a long-standing commitment to Todd,” Plesa said. “That’s good to see in this business. Fortunately, Mike Smith was interested in riding our horse.”

Beyond the top two, it’s hard to make a case for the other five runners: Edge of Reality, Gefest, Bethel, and the entry of Reporting Star and Kanturk Kid.

None has won an open stakes.

“As always, strange things can happen in a race,” Plesa said. “Those other horses are in there for a reason. I’m sure their connections are hoping for an upset, and that’s what it would be.”

From the rail, Verrazano figures to be the early pace factor. He could have company from Edge of Reality, a sprinter breaking from post 2 while stretching out for the first time.

“In a perfect world, we’d like to be where we could stalk Itsmyluckyday,” Pletcher said. “We’ll just let him run his race and see how it unfolds. Our horse is pretty fast, if we want to let him run. He’s got sprinter speed. We’re not going to be taking back.”

◗ The New Jersey-bred handicap division gets a rare opportunity to run long on the turf in the supporting feature, the $60,000 Dan Horn. Hermosillo, a veteran presence in these statebred battles, makes his grass debut as a 9-year-old.


Lindsay Lyon More than 1 year ago
Tough race to call, and I don't see any value here. Verrazano is a very talented miler type, and Pletcher does best with rested horses. I think that if Verrazano gets a soft lead the race is done. If anyone decides to go with him IMLD will be there waiting. Verrazano gets my nod, but just barely. I will be watching as a fan but not betting. Great G3 race!
Sir More than 1 year ago
I would love to have this field and yesterday's Matt Winn field combined into one race.
Sharjil Ahmad More than 1 year ago
Verrazano goes to the front. Never looks back.....
B More than 1 year ago
Never been a big fan, but I think a mile/a mile and a sixteenth is Verrazano's specialty. Should be a good horse race despite how weak the rest of the field is compared to the top two. Picking third might be the hardest part of this race.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Picking a 20-1 to run third will still only be a $12 trifecta.
edb More than 1 year ago
Todd not running his basketball team? Welcome back to old school racing. Good luck to Itsmyluckyday and run down the "Bridge". Tough race to make money. Where are all those pretenders who filled the jewels?
Mike Lee More than 1 year ago
Itsmyluckyday should win this showdown,and look like a strong contender headed into the Haskell!
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Go Lucky Go! Your excellent Preakness performance against Oxbow indicates the real Itsmyluckyday is back! Good luck & good fortune to you today in the Pegasus, Itsmyluckyday!
Harvey Savitsky More than 1 year ago
Sounds like 'talking horses'!
Edgar Dorta More than 1 year ago
Verrazano is going to make a come back
Robert Johnson More than 1 year ago
The point is we heard about this superhorse but instead of teaching him to race and toughen him up by competition, they always found an easy race for him. Pletcher had how many losers in the Belmont?
Mark More than 1 year ago
He said where he was going all along . Come beat him . He is facing a top 3 year old in IMLD . And why is he not capable of being a super horse ? Complete toss is the KD. One loss with lots of big races remaining to stake his claim for 3 year old Horse of Year . Where do you suggest he go ? the Foster ? cmon man .
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
If Verrazano is in a distance race with a strong and/or contested pace, like Fort Larned race last night or Game on Dude ran in the Big 'Cap, he is toast. His pedigree is marginal past 9f or so; like Take Charge Indy, his reputation is built on 2-turn wins from running on the lead with soft early fractions so that he can sprint home.
Mark More than 1 year ago
He s had 5 career races for crying out loud. No where near the horse he has potential to become . Geez . Slowdown. Take a breath. I like how he has been handled and spotted since derby . Are you playing against today Ann ?
Sharjil Ahmad More than 1 year ago
So what were the stats of Fort Larned as a 3 yr old ? were they better than Verrazano's ? take a break... give the horse some time
Sharjil Ahmad More than 1 year ago
how many horses can win the Belmont in one year ?
Dan Monroe More than 1 year ago
Perfect spacing between the KD and the Haskell, with a prep race on the same track as the Haskell. A race over the track has always made sense for a prep. What other better prep would you have suggested? And what's with your obsession with the phrase "superhorse"? Those of us who know a thing or two about this game weren't calling him that. Geez .......
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
this should be a message to a track to have a big race for three year olds on this day or maybe a week later. If Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday show up for this $150,000 race imagine the field that a track could attract with a $500,000 purse. If trainers don't want to run a horse in the Belmont for whatever reason there is a huge gap between the Preakness and Haskell that needs to be filled by a top notch race. I often wondered why more trainers didn't try the Stephen Foster after the Derby if they didn't want to continue with the Triple Crown. You get 6 weeks rest after the Derby, then you can run a mile and an eighth which isn't too taxing and you'll get in very light being a three year old running against older horses. I know the Foster is a tough race but so is the Met Mile and three year olds have won that before while getting a weight break from the older horses. Bottom line is that horses like Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday are crying out for a better race to run in than the $150,000 Pegasus this time of year. This race is beneith them but they don't really have any other options.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
The Ohio Derby used to be the big post-Triple Crown Grade 2 race. The roll of winners includes many a decent horse - Brass Hat, Milwaukee Brew, Skip Away, King Glorious, Lost Code, Broad Brush, Smarten, Petionville,etc. Not the first rank of 3yos, perhaps, but darn good runners. Unfortunately, the Thistledown powers-that-be decided to shorten the Ohio Derby to 8.5f from 9f and move it to the fall. This is why we need a national racing authority - so that absurd decisions like this are subject to review by those with a broader perspective.
B More than 1 year ago
I mostly agree, but as I recall, the Pegasus was once a higher ranked race than it is now when it was held at the Meadowlands. Perhaps if horses of the caliber of the top two enter more often, this race now at Monmouth will become more important in stature, get a purse boost and attract more good horses. The problem with your scenario is that most horsemen today do not have the guts to be thinking in May about how soon they can face their elders. Mostly, they wait until they have no other choice.