Odds-on favorite Verrazano put away the competition down the stretch to capture Saturday's $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16-miles. It was the 3-year-old colt's much anticipated stakes debut.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Verrazano broke sharply from the gate to take the early lead. Racing next to the 2-5 favorite was Falling Sky who won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay last month.
The two horses battled through the backstretch, exchanging the lead back and forth. Sitting off the lead was Dynamic Sky and Purple Egg in the nine-horse field.
Verrazano, trained by Todd Pletcher. put away Falling Sky on the final turn and began to open his lead entering the stretch. The favorite easily drove through the stretch and posted a three-length victory over 32-1 longshot Java's War.
Finishing third was Falling Sky followed by Dynamic Sky, Eton Blue, Park City, Honorable Dillon, Offlee Fast and Purple Egg.
Verrazano covered the distance in 1:43.96 on a fast track.
Owned by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier, Verrazano received 50 points in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The colt also earned $210,000 as he remains undefeated in three starts, all this year.
Unraced as a 2-year-old, Verrazano won both starts this winter at Gulfstream Park by a combined 24 lengths and is the early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. He was 9-1 at the end of the second Kentucky Derby Future Wager last week.
The win is the second for Todd Pletcher in the race having won the Tampa Bay Derby with Limehouse in 2004.
Verrazano returned $2.80, $2.60 and $2.10. Java's War paid $14.60 and $8.00, and Falling Sky paid $4.60 to show.