April has been a very good month thus far for jockey Augusto A. Marin. After a 3-for-3 performance Wednesday, Marin added three victories to his ledger from four starters on Sunday, propelling him to 15th in the meet standings with 19 victories.
If you missed it Saturday, meanwhile, Verrazano took another step toward Thoroughbred racing immortality with his victory in the $1-million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. If he goes on to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 4 at Churchill Downs, the 3-year-old colt will become the third Tampa Bay Derby participant to capture the coveted Run for the Roses since 2007.
Marin visited the winner’s circle after the second race aboard 4-year-old gelding Title Town, who rallied to victory in the mile-and-40-yard claiming event for owners Ray Rech and Midnight Rider LLC and trainer Gerald Bennett. Marin next won the fifth, a five-and-a-half furlong claiming affair, on 6-year-old horse Dream of Atlantis for owner Wayne E. Sargent, Jr., and trainer Greg Griffith.
Once more, with gusto: In the eighth race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week at a mile on the turf, Marin piloted 3-year-old filly Wellspring Legacy, a recent $12,500 claim, for owner-trainer Charles Harvatt.
Verrazano – owned by the Let’s Go Stable partnership of Kevin Scatuorchio and his brother-in-law, Bryan Sullivan, along with Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, and trained by Todd Pletcher – earned 100 points for his Wood Memorial victory in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” point standings, vaulting into a tie for the top spot with Besilu Stables Florida Derby winner Orb with 150 points each.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” is a 36-race series that awards points to the top four finishers, with the top-20 horses earning a spot in the starting gate of the $2-million, mile-and-a-quarter classic. Verrazano had assured himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby field with his sensational victory March 9 in the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, worth 50 points to the winner.
The Wood Memorial victory under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, was Verrazano’s fourth in four starts. Although perhaps not as visually impressive as his Tampa Bay Derby triumph – he beat Normandy Invasion by ¾-length Saturday – Verrazano was not asked for his best until approaching the stretch and refused to let Normandy Invasion or third-place finisher Vyjack past.
Verrazano, who is not expected to start between now and the Kentucky Derby, is aiming to make history on several fronts. In addition to trying to become the eighth undefeated Derby winner (and first since Big Brown in 2008), Verrazano would be the first Derby winner who did not race as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882 (Verrazano’s first start was in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream on Jan. 1).
In 2007, Street Sense, from the barn of Carl Nafzger, used the Tampa Bay Derby as his major prep for that year’s Kentucky Derby, which he won over Hard Spun and Curlin under jockey Calvin Borel. Three years later, the Pletcher-trained Super Saver finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby, then took Louisville, Ky., by storm three weeks later to win the Derby under Borel.
Here are the current top point-getters, along with their owners and trainers: Verrazano, 150 (owners and trainer above); Orb, 150 (Stuart Janney III & Phipps Stable; Shug McGaughey III); Goldencents, 129 (W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing; Doug O’Neill); Revolutionary, 110 (Win Star Farm LLC; Todd Pletcher); Lines of Battle, 100 (Joseph Allen, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith; Aidan O’Brien); Vyjack, 70 (Pick Six Racing; Rudy Rodriguez); Will Take Charge, 60 (Willis D. Horton; D. Wayne Lukas); Itsmyluckyday, 50 (Trilogy Stable & Laurie Plesa; Eddie Plesa, Jr.); Govenor Charlie, 50 (Mike Pegram; Bob Baffert); Black Onyx, 50 (Sterling Racing; Kelly Breen).
Also, Normany Invasion, 44 (Fox Hill Farms, Inc.; Chad Brown); Mylute, 42 (GoldMark Farm, LLC & Whisper Hill Farm; Tom Amoss); Oxbow, 36 (Calumet Farm; D. Wayne Lukas); Uncaptured, 30 (John C. Oxley; Mark Casse); Super Ninety Nine, 30 (Tanma Corporation; Bob Baffert); Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Java’s War, 22 (Charles Fipke; Ken McPeek); and seven horses with 20: Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Falling Sky, Merit Man, Den’s Legacy, Departing, Code West, West Hills Giant and Tiz a Minister.
Saturday’s upcoming Kentucky Derby preps are the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade I, $1-million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Few Derby entrants would match the abundant storylines surrounding Goldencents, Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner. Goldencents is trained by Doug O’Neill, the conditioner of 2012 Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, and Goldencents’ co-owner RAP Racing is the stable name of University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, whose team faces Michigan on Monday for the NCAA title.
Goldencents’ jockey is St. Croix native Kevin Krigger, who would be bidding to become the first African-American jockey to claim the Kentucky Derby since Jimmy Winkfield on Alan-a-Dale in 1902.
Tampa Bay Downs leasing jockey Daniel Centeno rode two winners Sunday, giving him a 76-64 edge from Fernando De La Cruz in his quest to corral a record fifth track riding crown.
Centeno was victorious in the first race on 5-year-old mare Political Miss for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness, and in the third on 6-year-old gelding Havanadaydream for owner Julian De Mora and trainer Jorge Navarro. Havanadaydream, a Florida-bred son of Black Mambo-Paper Mountain, by Mountain Cat, has won four consecutive starts.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Racing will be held each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 5, with the exception of Wednesday, with the exception of Wednesday, May 1.
From now through May 4, players at The Silks Poker Room have the opportunity to qualify for a drawing to win a Toyota 4Runner from Wesley Chapel Toyota Honda. In any of the cash games, a hand of aces-full or better with one card earns one drawing ticket; four-of-a-kind or better with both cards earns two tickets; a straight flush earns three tickets; and a royal flush earns five tickets.
Sundays and Thursdays are double-ticket days. The drawing for the 4Runner will be held May 5; the winner must be present to attend. In addition, nine tickets will be drawn that day for $599 cash prizes. The Silks Poker Room is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 a.m.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.