02/12/2013 11:51AM

Pletcher pointing Verrazano to Tampa Bay Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Verrazano will make his stakes debut in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9.

After briefly considering the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Gotham as possibilities, trainer Todd Pletcher on Tuesday said that the unbeaten Verrazano would make his stakes and two-turn debuts in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9.

Verrazano, 2 for 2 in his brief career, most recently romped in a Gulfstream Park allowance race, a one-turn mile, by 16 1/4 lengths on Feb. 2 while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

Pletcher was uncomfortable coming back in the Fountain of Youth, both because it is a short turn-around from the allowance race, and because another of his unbeaten colts, Violence, is scheduled to make his 2013 debut in that race on Feb. 23 at Gulfstream Park.

The Gotham, March 2 at Aqueduct, also had a conflict, since Remsen winner Overanalyze is scheduled to make his first start of the year there for Pletcher, and it would require moving Verrazano out of Florida.

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

The Tampa Bay Derby gives Verrazano the longest time between races, something Pletcher frequently desires, and it keeps him in Florida.

Another Pletcher trainee, Delhomme, was also under consideration for the Tampa Bay Derby, but Pletcher said he most likely will await the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 16 for his first start of the year.

All of those races – the Fountain of Youth, Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby, and Rebel – are worth 50 points to the winner under the new eligibility system put in place this year by Churchill Downs for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. The Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 23, plus the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March  9, the Spiral at Turfway on March  23, and the Sunland Derby on March 24, also are worth 50 points to the winner, with 20 to second, 10 to third, and 5 to fourth.

The final two Derby preps worth just 10 points to the winner are this weekend, the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Saturday, and the Southwest at Oaklawn on Monday, the Presidents' Day holiday.

The final round of major preps to the Derby, where the points are worth 100-40-20-10, respectively, to the top four finishers, begins with the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai, and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, all on March 30. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and the Blue Grass at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 13, are also worth 100 points to the winner.

Verrazano was the shortest-priced individual entry in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which closed Sunday. He was an 11-1 chance, behind only “all others,” which was favored at 8-5.

In the aftermath of Verrazano’s allowance win, an interest in the colt was purchased by the Coolmore Stud of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier. Coolmore last year purchased a half-interest in Shanghai Bobby, who went on to win the Eclipse Award as champion male 2-year-old. He, too, is trained by Pletcher.

Verrazano, a son of More Than Ready, was purchased as a yearling for $250,000 by the Let’s Go Stable headed by Bryan Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio.