Their paths are converging today simply by happenstance.
They are, in fact, stablemates, and both are undefeated from two starts, with high hopes for the Triple Crown series, but Verrazano and Park City aren’t quite on the same path right now, and that’s OK with Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Starlight Racing.
Anyway, he and co-managing partner Jack Wolf have another one targeting the Kentucky Derby, Shanghai Bobby, so if Park City still needs more experience, that’s fine.
He’ll surely get some today, when he faces Verrazano, the buzz horse on the Derby Trail, in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. Verrazano, owned by Let’s Go Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, was the individual favorite in each of the first two pools for the Kentucky Derby future wager.
Verrazano has won his two starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined 24 lengths, and he’s 4-5 on the morning line for the Tampa Bay Derby, despite the fact that he’s making his stakes debut.
Park City’s two wins have come by a length at Saratoga Race Course last year and by a neck at Gulfstream on Feb. 9, so the buzz is much quieter around him.
Lucarelli said the Starlight partners are under no delusion that Park City will beat Verrazano
today, but he’s playing catchup at this point in his career, so they’d be satisfied with a move forward in his progress, and perhaps some Derby qualifying points, just in case.
“It’s more important to find out a little more about him,” Lucarelli said. “Ultimately, this isn’t about trying to win the Kentucky Derby, but about finding out his talent level a little more. He’s probably not going to beat Verrazano, but if he finishes up well in his first time around two turns, he’ll learn a lot, and so will we.”
Park City was originally scheduled to run next weekend in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., but the travel circumstances to Tampa are much less strenuous, among other factors.
Verrazano, meanwhile, had been considered for the Gotham last weekend, but Pletcher has so many Derby prospects to juggle that it seemed reasonable to let Verrazano get another week of training and clear the schedule of some of the other Pletcher horses.
“It’s like landing airplanes in Todd’s barn,” Let’s Go managing partner Bryan Sullivan said during a national teleconference on Tuesday. “We’re on kind of a different schedule than some of these other horses, so when Violence and those horses were getting ready, we were kind of coming out of our race.”
Lucarelli was scheduled to fly to Tampa this morning.
“I’d hate to have a miracle happen and not be there,” he said, laughing, but also underscoring the level of hype that has engulfed Verrazano, despite how lightly raced he is.
Park City (12-1) will break from post No. 8 in the nine-horse field, and Verrazano has the 6.
Depending on how he does, Park City could come back in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct or the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.
“It really came down to the fact that this was an easier ship to Tampa,” Lucarelli said. “We know what post he has, it’s a little shorter field and it looks like the Rebel is going to get 11 or 12.
“So let’s take the easier ship, instead of trucking him out of there, flying, then vanning to Arkansas. He can van over the day of the race.”
Park City, a son of Harlan’s Holiday, took some time off this winter to have a minor chip removed from his ankle.
While his Starlight stablemate, Shanghai Bobby, was winning the Eclipse Award and garnering attention as he prepared for his 3-year-old debut, Park City quietly worked his way back into race shape and came from off the pace to win at Gulfstream on Feb. 9.
“We think he’s a two-turn horse, but he’s so lightly raced that he’s sort of behind the curve,” Lucarelli said. “As long as he stays healthy, he can be a nice horse. It would depend on how he does it [today]. There are good seconds and thirds and bad seconds and thirds.
“But you could make the case to just wait for the summer races, maybe the Preakness. We have the other big horse that we hope to get there with, so there’s no pressure, and you want to do what’s right for the horse. He started at Saratoga, he was a real green, then he had a little chip taken out of his ankle, so we took our time with him and brought him back.”
Starlight enlisted Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, who has been on a tear lately, to ride Park City, since Pletcher’s two top regulars aren’t available.
Javier Castellano is riding Pletcher horses at Gulfstream, and John Velazquez is on Verrazano.
Shanghai Bobby, meanwhile, is scheduled to run in the Florida Derby, after he suffered his only career defeat, to Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull.
“Todd’s been happy with his works, and he looks great,” Lucarelli said. “He’s got the blinkers back on for his works, so he knows it’s time to pay attention.”
In the other big Derby prep today, undefeated Flashback is the 123-pound highweight in the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Flashback won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis by 61⁄4 lengths over Den’s Legacy in February.
Among the seven he’ll face is Goldencents, owned in part by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.
His only loss in four career starts was a second to Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne.
Flashy Gray, favored in the Kentucky Oaks future wager, will make her stakes debut today as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade III Honey Bee at Oaklawn for trainer Bill Mott and West Point Thoroughbreds.
The card also includes the Grade III Razorback, where Alternation is 2-1 and will break from the outside of the 10-horse field. Of his five wins last year, three came at Oaklawn, including the Razorback and Oaklawn Handicap.
The Razorback field includes Atigun, fourth in the Travers and third in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.
The Aqueduct card includes the Fred “Cappy” Capossela for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.
Clawback, owned by Shaker High School graduate Bill Lawrence and Klaravich Stables, is the 6-5 favorite.
Trained by Rick Violette, he has won two straight, most recently the Jimmy Winkfield, after a second at Saratoga and a second to Gotham winner Vyjack in a maiden race at Aqueduct.
The field also includes Whiskey Romeo, unbeaten in three starts as a 2-year-old.
Believe You Can, the 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner under Rosie Napravnik for the first Grade I victory of her riding career, is 1-5 in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds, where she won the Tiffany Lass last time out.
FORT LARNED AT GP
Fort Larned, who made a strong case for Horse of the Year last year, will make his 2013 debut today in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Among his wins in 2012 were the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita and the Whitney at Saratoga.
“It’s a good steppingstone bringing my horse back,” trainer Ian Wilkes told Ed Gray of the Gulfstream Park media office. “We’ve freshened him quite a bit since the Breeders’ Cup. We’ve been in a nice work pattern since. For me and my style, I thought it was a perfect race back for him.”
Fort Larned broke his maiden at Gulfstream in 2011 and won the Grade III Skip Away there last year.
He’s been working steadily at Palm Meadows Training Center since the beginning of the year.
“You’re always apprehensive for their first race because you remember how good they were when they finished,” Wilkes said. “This is the same as Bill [Mott] watching Royal Delta come back and Shug [McGaughey] with Point of Entry. I’m anxious to have him come back and be as good as he was.”
Fort Larned is 3-5 on the morning line and will carry 124 pounds, at least eight more than each of the other five entered in the Gulfstream Handicap.
Mucho Macho Man, who won this race last year, was scheduled to run, but came down with a mild virus last month.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito will begin a 15-day suspension on Monday for a clenbuterol positive that occurred after Alvito won the fifth race at Aqueduct on Feb. 24, 2012.
Zito told the Daily Racing Form that he was in Florida that day and that his New York-based assistant, Rocardo Troncozo, told him that Alvito had not been treated with the drug, a bronchial dilator.
The case was delayed for over a year because Zito’s lawyers asked for further testing on the sample.
The Daily Racing Form reported that the fatality rate for thoroughbred horses running on synthetic surfaces continues to be far lower than the rate on dirt and turf surfaces, according to a release by the Jockey Club of updated figures gleaned from the Equine Injury Database.
In 2012, the fatality rate per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces was 1.03, half the 2.10 rate for dirt surfaces, according to the data. On turf, the fatality rate was 1.74 per 1,000 starts.
A difference between the fatality rates first showed up in the 2009 data, when horses running on synthetic surfaces had a 1.49 fatality rate per 1,000 starts and dirt horses had a 2.10 rate. Since then, the fatality rate on synthetic surfaces has fallen every year, while the dirt rate has held steady.
Epidemiologists studying the data said that the difference in the rate first became statistically significant through the end of 2010, when the sample size for the number of races in the database grew to a sufficient size. The release of the updated data was based on an analysis of 1,532,418 starts through Dec. 31, 2012, with 196,944 of those starts on synthetic surfaces.
Synthetic surfaces have been installed at Keeneland, Del Mar, Hollywood, Woodbine, Arlington Park, Turfway Park, Golden Gate Fields and Presque Isle Downs. Santa Anita also had a synthetic surface, but the track reinstalled a dirt surface in 2010.
AROUND THE TRACKS
In what would be a blockbuster matchup on the Churchill Downs Turf, reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Breeders’ Cup Turf champion and defending winner Little Mike and four-time Grade I winner Point of Entry are among 65 nominations for the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day May 4. . . .
The Mott-trained 3-year-old filly Calistoga, a daughter of Speightstown, stayed undefeated in two starts with a 43⁄4-length win at 1-4 in an allowance at Gulfstream Park on Thursday. . . .
Dullahan, owned in part by Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs through Donegal Racing, will get his Dubai World Cup prep today in the $200,000 Burj Nahar at Meydan Race Course, followed one race later by his stablemate, Little Mike, in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.
Trained by Dale Romans, Dullahan and Little Mike arrived in Dubai on March 1 after a 35-hour trip.
HERE AND THERE
After two seventh-place finishes in California, in the Grade I Malibu and Grade II San Carlose, for trainer Neil Drysdale, New York-bred The Lumber Guy is on his way back to New York and trainer Mike Hushion. . . .
Mine That Bird, winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, will make the Kentucky Derby Museum his home during the spring meet at Churchill Downs this year.
This is the first time the Kentucky Derby Museum has had a Kentucky Derby winner stabled on the grounds to greet the thousands of Derby enthusiasts during this peak time of year.
Mine That Bird, retired in the fall of 2010, has been stabled in New Mexico at co-owner Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch. He is expected to arrive at the Derby Museum at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 15 as the resident thoroughbred and stay through July 4.
A movie about the Mine That Bird story, called 50-1, has wrapped filming and is in the editing stages with director/producer Jim Wilson. Capturing the stories of each of the members of the team along with the storied drive to Kentucky by trainer Chip Woolley, the movie highlights the unique blend of circumstances that led them to unexpected victory in the Kentucky Derby. . . .
Julie Krone will be among nine inductees in the 2013 class of the National Women’s Hall of Fame on Oct. 12 in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement.
In 1993, Krone became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race, when Colonial Affair won the Belmont Stakes, and in 2003, she was the first woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race, on Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies.
She became the first woman inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, in 2000.