Verrazano, Normandy Invasion in Final Preps for Wood Memorial

by | 03.31.2013 | 1:20pm

Undefeated Verrazano worked five furlongs in 1:01.17 Sunday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, completing his major preparations for an expected start in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack.

With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard for the work, Verrazano was sent in company with Discreet Dancer, who was credited with the same time, fastest of 15 at the distance. Discreet Dancer, who exits a 5 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9, is bound for the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on the Wood undercard.

“I thought it was another excellent work, pretty much what we have come to expect of [Verrazano] in the morning,” trainer Todd Pletcher said by phone. “It was very good, and a strong gallop out; very pleased. Discreet Dancer also worked well and is on schedule for the Carter.”

Campaigned by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Verrazano broke his maiden on New Year's Day at Gulfstream Park, airing by 7 ¾ lengths over 10 rivals, then earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 winning a one-mile optional claiming race by 16 ¾ lengths a month later. His stakes debut came in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9, which he won by three lengths after bobbling at the break.

“We felt like he got a little bit of experience in Tampa in that he got behind a horse and got a little bit of dirt,” Pletcher said. “Some experience certainly can help you in what I'm sure will be a full gate at Churchill. [Additional experience in the Wood], and the mile-and-an-eighth distance should also be helpful, hopefully, in preparing him for the Derby if we're fortunate enough to go that route.”

Pletcher said that Verrazano and Discreet Dancer are scheduled to arrive in New York on Wednesday.

D-Day is near for Normandy Invasion, who turned in his final workout for the Wood Memorial by breezing on Sunday at Palm Meadows.

With exercise rider Javier Herrera aboard, Normandy Invasion covered four furlongs in 47.95, the quickest of 35 moves at the distance.

Trainer Chad Brown, speaking via telephone, expressed satisfaction with the workout.

“He went very well. He did an easy half within himself,” said Brown. “Although the time was very quick he did it very easy. I'm happy with the way he was moving and the way he came back.”

Normandy Invasion has made one start in 2013, finishing fifth, beaten 1 ½ lengths, as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 23 at the Fair Grounds.

“He came out of the race [at the Fair Grounds] in good shape,” said Brown. “He probably needed that race for the last bit of fitness after the freshening. He's very fit right now, so I expect him to move forward off the race.

In two starts at Aqueduct last November the Fox Hill Farms color-bearer broke his maiden by 9 ¼ lengths in his second start and missed by a nose when runner-up in the Grade 2 Remsen.

“That's why we chose the Wood,” Brown said of Normandy Invasion's record at Aqueduct. “We're confident he likes the track. It takes away one element of guess work.”

Like Verrazano, Normandy Invasion will fly to New York on Wednesday.

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