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Monmouth: Kentucky Derby also-rans Verrazano, Itsmyluckyday rematched in 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.
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!
I would love to have this field and yesterday's Matt Winn field combined into one race.
Verrazano goes to the front. Never looks back.....
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.
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?
Itsmyluckyday should win this showdown,and look like a strong contender headed into the Haskell!
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!
Verrazano is going to make a come back
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?
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.