06/16/2013 7:05PM

Monmouth Park: Verrazano romps in Pegasus; Itsmyluckyday injured

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Verrazano and jockey John Velazquez won the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes by 9 1/4 lengths Sunday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Verrazano is back, rebounding from a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby to easily win the Grade 3, $148,500 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Itsmyluckyday wasn’t as fortunate. The runner-up to Oxbow in the Preakness, Itsmyluckyday was pulled up on the backstretch with a left hind injury. He was vanned back to his stall in Eddie Plesa Jr.’s barn.

“There is nothing obvious we can pinpoint at the moment,” Plesa said. “We’re taking a series of X-rays. So far, no fractures are evident.”

The race before a Father’s Day crowd of 28,951 was the first major stakes for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown. It featured a showdown between two talented colts who had met once before in the Derby. Itsmyluckyday finished 15th in the slop at Churchill Downs on May 4, one position behind Verrazano.

On paper, the Pegasus was a one-on-one matchup between those two. And for a brief moment, it was.

Verrazano, as expected, grabbed the early lead in the 1 1/16-mile race. Itsmyluckyday, ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, broke from the outside slot in the five-horse field and was fanned wide entering the first turn before settling into stalking position.

With Verrazano and John Velazquez cruising along on an open lead, Smith sent Itsmyluckyday after the leader with five furlongs to run.

The showdown everyone anticipated vanished in an instant, as Itsmyluckyday took a bad step and Smith quickly slammed on the brakes.

“He was cruising up there, and all of a sudden, ‘What was that?’ Then I grabbed a hold of him,” Smith said. “The leg was intact; he just wouldn’t put weight on it. Maybe he just pulled a stifle. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

With the main competition stunningly out of the running, Verrazano rolled to an easy win as the 2-5 favorite. He improved to 5 for 6 with his third stakes win, following the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.

Verrazano finished 9 1/4 lengths in front of 37-1 longshot Reporting Star, with Bethel third and Gefest fourth. The time was 1:41.72 on the fast track under overcast skies.

Trainer Todd Pletcher selected the Pegasus as Verrazano’s comeback following the Derby, with the long-range target of the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational here July 28 in mind.

So far, Verrazano is right on target, having had a relatively stress-free tour of the track.

“There didn’t look to be a lot of speed in the race,” Velazquez said. “I talked to Todd this morning, and he said to just come out running and make them chase you. I’m very happy to have him back, to have him perform the way he did it today.”

Velazquez has been racing’s man in motion. He captured his 5,000th career win in North America on Friday at Belmont Park. This was his second straight successful Sunday trip to the Jersey Shore, having captured the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes with Boisterous last weekend.

As he trotted through the tunnel back to the jockeys’ room, Velazquez was already focusing on the next assignment: Animal Kingdom on Tuesday at Royal Ascot. He had only four hours, and the prospect of lots of traffic on the New York metropolitan area’s congested roadways and bridges, to motor from Monmouth to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens for the flight to England.

“It’s been a very exciting weekend, and now I have to rush to make the plane,” Velazquez said.

It was the third Pegasus win for Pletcher, following scores with Magna Graduate (2005) and Atoned (2008). Velazquez rode Magna Graduate, giving him two victories in the stakes.

Edge of Reality and Kanturk Kid, the two Pegasus scratches, are slated to run in second-level allowance races. Edge of Reality goes Monday in a one-mile race at Parx. Kanturk Kid runs here Friday on the turf.

• Richiefromshoprite was the 16-1 upset winner of the $67,200 Dan Horn Handicap for New Jersey-breds on the turf Sunday. He set the pace in the one-mile race, beating Hop Skip and Away by 2 3/4 lengths with Gabriel Saez aboard for trainer Stacy Machiz.

• Monmouth jockey fines and suspensions: Saez starts a seven-calendar-day suspension for careless riding Monday. Pedro Solano (June 21-23) and Samuel Camacho Jr. (June 30-July 4) each were suspended for three Monmouth racing days for careless riding. Apprentice Manuel Franco was fined $2,000 for careless riding.