03/09/2013 6:11PM

Verrazano clear winner of Tampa Bay Derby

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Verrazano solidified his position as the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby with a convincing 3 ½-length victory over the slow-breaking Java’s War in Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. Falling Sky, who contested the early pace, finished a tiring and well-beaten third.

Verrazano, a son of More than Ready owned by the partnership of Lets Go Stable and Coolmore, earned 50 qualifying points for his third convincing win in as many starts. The 50 points figure to be enough to clinch his spot in this year’s Derby field.

With regular rider John Velazquez aboard, Verrazano broke in front, took back off the speedy Falling Sky on the opening turn then stalked the leader from the outside for six furlongs before proving his superiority through the stretch. Java’s War broke slowly then rallied belatedly to be second best in a field of 3-year-olds.