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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Verrazano's Road to New York Stays in Florida


Verrazano will continue to train in Florida for the Grade I Wood Memorial.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Verrazano will return the worktab on Sunday and is scheduled to fly to New York on April 3 for the April 6 Wood Memorial.

“Looking at his schedule, we felt Tampa put him in a position that opened up a lot of options, with the Wood always being our first choice,” said Pletcher. “Assuming he trains accordingly, we’ll stick with that plan. We’ll have four weeks’ spacing between the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood and the Kentucky Derby.”

Pletcher added that the Tampa Bay Derby, contested over Tampa Bay Downs’ sandy main track, should put stamina into Verrazano.

“It’s a demanding surface and provides a good foundation,” said Pletcher. “The fact he was able to go there and win first time over it gives us encouragement that we can ship him just about anywhere and that he’ll run well.”

Verrazano has made two other starts in his career, winning by 7 3/4 lengths on New Year’s Day and 16 1/4 lengths Feb. 2. Both starts came at Gulfstream Park.

Vyjack Puts in Sharp Breeze

Vyjack continued his preparations for the Wood by breezing five furlongs in :59.07 (1/7) at Aqueduct on Friday, accompanied by 7-year-old Head Heart Hoof.

After conceding two lengths to Head Heart Hoof at the start, Vyjack drew even with his stablemate at the five sixteenths, was a half-length in front at the wire, and pulled well clear in the gallop out. It was Vyjacks first move since winning the Grade III Gotham on March 2.

Head Heart Hoof, winner of the Grade III Toboggan and third in the Grade III Tom Fool Handicap, was clocked in :59.72.

“Last time was easy,” said Gustavo Rodriguez, who was aboard for Friday’s workout in the absence of a suspended Rudy Rodriguez, his brother. “It was time for him to do something. I wanted him to do something, but not crazy. He was chasing the other one. Turning for home, I asked him a little bit, and he responded nice. He galloped out nice. Beautiful. Strong. He’s worked with other horses, and nobody can keep up with him.”

Vyjack is unbeaten in four starts, all at Aqueduct. After contesting the pace and wearing down Siete de Oros to win the Grade II Jerome by a head in January, the gelded son of Into Mischief rallied from tenth to win the Gotham by 2 1/4 widening lengths.

“He seemed very relaxed today in the work and before the work,” said owner David Wilkenfeld. “I was watching him on the track. He kind of sat outside the other horse, and when Gustavo set him down he was very relaxed. Usually after the works he kind of waits on the other horse, but it looks like he kind of kept going.”

Wilkenfeld, however, is not conceding the Wood Memorial to Verrazano or anything else.

“Normandy Invasion is also a very nice horse,” said Wilkenfeld. “He needs to win a big race just to get into the Derby, so he’s going to be fully cranked and ready to go. There are some other tough horses, also. The McLaughlin horse who ran against us in the Gotham is also a nice horse.”

Speaking of Elnaawi

Kiaran McLaughlin's Elnaawi, targeting the Wood off a third in the Gotham, is scheduled to breeze four furlongs on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Prior to the Gotham, Elnaawi broke his maiden by four lengths in January at Aqueduct in his second start. The dark bay colt is a half-brother to 2011 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap and 2012 Grade 1 Woodward winner To Honor and Serve.

Edited NYRA release

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