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Verrazano Cruises to Victory in Pegasus, Next Stop July 28 Haskell

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A record Father’s Day crowd of 28,951 was on-hand at Monmouth Park Sunday to see Verrazano cruise to an easy 9 ¼ length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pegasus Stakes.

            Trained by Todd Pletcher, Verrazano took command right from the outset and set easy fractions of :24 4/5 for the first quarter of a mile and :48 3/5 for a half.  He accelerated around the far turn, stepping six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 before going under the line in 1:41 3/5 for a mile and a sixteenth over a fast main track.

            “It feels good to have him back,” said winning jockey John Velazquez.  “There didn’t look to be that much speed on paper at all.  I talked to Todd [trainer Pletcher] this morning and he said just to come out running and make them chase you.  His ears were wagging every step of the way and around the 3/8ths pole I gave him a little nudge and he knew it was time to go.”

            A 3-year-old colt by More Than Ready from the Giant’s Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, Verrazano was making his first start since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby.  Prior to that, he was a perfect four-for-four, including a victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.

            Verrazano, who races for Let’s Go Stable, Tabor, Magnier and Smith, is expected to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational, centerpiece of the Monmouth Park season on July 28th.

            “I think we got exactly what we wanted to set us up for the Haskell,” said Brian Sullivan, co-owner of Let’s Go Stable.  “I think it makes the next six months interesting with a sprint to see who’s Horse of the Year.  I think we’re squarely within that picture.  He’ll train at the Spa [Saratoga] and bring him back for the Haskell.”

            Reporting Star, with Angel Serpa aboard, completed the $45.40 exacta and paid $9 and $10.  Bethel was another 4 ¼ lengths back in third, good for a $13.20 show mutuel.

            Itsmyluckyday, who was sent off the 6-5 second choice and was coming off a runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes, moved toward Verrazano down the backstretch but was pulled up by jockey Mike Smith.

            “It felt like a left hind,” Smith said.  “He actually broke really sharp and was just about to go up to press Verrazano and I felt something behind.  I wasn’t going to take a chance and decided it was better to be safe than sorry so I just took the cautious road.”