Tampa Bay Downs will have much of the racing world’s attention tomorrow afternoon, as the current Kentucky Derby future book favorite Verrazano makes his stakes debut in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Verrazano has shown an immense amount of talent in the first two starts of his career, defeating all competition by a combined 24 lengths. He’s going to be the heavy favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby, and rightfully so – the son of More Than Ready has done nothing but dazzle on the racetrack. With all that being said, I think he’s a terrible bet in tomorrow’s race. There is no question he is the most talented runner in the field and the most likely winner, but at odds that are sure to be close to 1/5, there’s no way I’d play him. Odds aside, there are a couple other rather large question marks that Verrazano still needs to answer/deal with. Both of his races have been at Gulfstream Park – this race is at Tampa Bay Downs, which is notorious for having a quirky surface that some horses just don’t handle very well. Both of his races at Gulfstream Park have been around one turn – the Tampa Bay Derby will be contested going two turns at a mile and a sixteenth. Last but not least, you can’t argue with the fact that he’s going to be facing a deeper, more experienced field than he’s ever faced before. All in all, I think Verrazano is absolutely the most talented horse in the field tomorrow – but I could never in a million years back a horse at 1/5 or 2/5.
In a race filled with sprinters stretching out (Purple Egg, Honorable Dillon, Park City) and horses that like to be on or near the lead (Verrazano, Offlee Fast, Falling Sky), I’ll look for a runner who should be coming and making a run from the second flight, and that’s Dynamic Sky. While he was a bit underwhelming to me when finishing second in the Grade III Sam F. Davis last month at Tampa, I thought the difference between first and second for him was the trip. Dynamic Sky was hung four wide all the way around the racetrack, while pace setter Falling Sky was able to save ground en route to victory. With at least two-thirds of the field wanting to be on or near the lead, I’m expecting the race to fall apart as they turn for home, enabling Joel Rosario to make one run with Dynamic Sky and hopefully get the victory over Verrazano in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby.
SELECTION: 5 – Dynamic Sky, Joel Rosario; ML 4-1