Verrazano Will Ride Momemtum to Kentucky Derby Crown

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01:  Exercise rider Humberto Zamora rides Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano during morning training in preparation for the 2013 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Verrazano certainly has the odds stacked against him at the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

The Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old has made it easy for his trainer to praise him after winning all four of his races in 2013.

However, the 4-0 colt never saw the track as a 2-year-old. A horse without that experience hasn’t won the Derby since Apollo captured the crown in 1882.

Then there’s Verrazano’s starting post position. He drew the 14 post, which has only produced two winners since 1900. The last came when Carry Back won in 1961.

That’s a lot of history to go up against at Churchill Downs, the biggest race of the American race season.

However, that’s also what makes his chances to win it all the more likely. There isn’t a harder-to-predict sporting event than the annual Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

The unpredictability makes it nearly impossible to ever truly count out any horse, no matter the odds.

Here are a couple of reasons you shouldn’t count out Verrazano on Saturday night.


World-Class Trainer Todd Pletcher

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher is fielding a record-tying five horses at the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Pletcher’s horse will be mounted by another Hall of Famer, jockey John Velazquez.

Velazquez last won the Derby while riding Animal Kingdom in 2011. He is also the regular rider of Orb, another top Derby contender that has rapidly risen to the top of favorite lists.


Momentum and Rest

Verrazano has performed convincingly in all four of his 2013 races—recently winning the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Pletcher is in awe of the performance of his horse to this point and doesn’t see the lack of 2-year-old competition as a big concern.

“He’s a tremendous physical specimen,” Pletcher said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger as we’ve gone along.”

Winning without that experience may be difficult, but if anyone can break the century-plus drought, it will be a physically dominant and well-trained horse like Verrazano.

Post Position Favors Verrazano

While the post 14 position has failed to produce many winners at Churchill Downs, it isn’t a death sentence for Verrazano. It is the last spot of the main gate before the auxiliary gate (posts 15 to 20). That will give his horse about eight to ten feet between him and the next horse out of the gate.

It should provide him with a gap to avoid getting stuck initially with the pack in order to allow Velazquez to run his kind of race.