“He hasn’t done anything wrong so far. There’s some more preps to go, but I would say right now he’s the legitimate [Kentucky Derby] favorite. The key now is to go to Churchill and get over that track well. Churchill can be a very peculiar surface and a lot of horses don’t handle it. We’ll probably go on [April 14]. I think he’s still learning. He has a tendency to idle a little bit and wait on company down the lane. I thought that today he did that a little bit. It was the first time he had horses real close to him at the finish of a race so hopefully every step we make is a learning experience for him and he learns to polish off these races off a little better.”
“[The pace today] was pretty slow. I think he’s shown that he’s kind, he’ll sit behind soft fractions, if necessary. It’s nice to see that he’ll do that. It’s a demanding surface, and I think with races at Tampa and here under his belt, hopefully that has him in a good spot.”
On what he learned about Verrazano today: “Well, we learned he’ll handle a mile and an eighth against pretty good horses. He didn’t show me anything to say he won’t [handle a mile and a quarter]. He’s gone a mile, mile and a sixteenth, a mile and an eighth now and handled each one. He’s got to go to Churchill and he’s got to train well over that surface. If it’s the surface we saw at the Breeders’ Cup a couple of years ago, there might be no one that handles it. That’s the real key. We’ve got a new track superintendent there; hopefully we get a good honest surface there.”
On whether he thinks jockey John Velazquez will choose to ride Verrazano or Orb in the Derby: “We’ll see. I guess we’re going to have to pin him down here at some point. We’ve got a pretty long history and a lot of success together over the years, and I think it would be pretty hard to take off an undefeated horse, but we’ll see what he says. I’m probably a little more flexible than the owners [in terms of when Velazquez makes a decision], but we’ll need a decision here fairly soon.”
“I feel good. I think there’s only one result that we could have left here happy with, and we got it.”
John Velazquez, winning jockey aboard Verrazano (No. 8): “Every race he’s learning. He’s still coming along, and we learn more about him. He does things very easily. This is his last prep before going to the Derby, so hopefully he’ll learn a lot from this one.
On Vyjack challenging him and the late run by Normandy Invasion: ”He was already going, and [Vyjack] came to him, and I looked at him. I never hit [Verrazano]. I was like, he’s running good enough that I don’t have to hit him. There was nobody on the outside, and by the wire I looked and the other horse [Normandy Invasion] came, and I never even saw that horse. I thought Vyjack was the only one fighting me. So I went to hand-ride him and show him the whip and tried to keep his attention because I know he kind of waits, and he’s looking at the infield, and I just kind of got his attention. And all of a sudden [Normandy Invasion] got [close] at the wire and I never saw him. I didn’t hit [Verrazano]. I didn’t want to overdo things. He was doing enough to beat the other horse, anyway.”
On who he might ride in the Kentucky Derby: “I don’t know. That will come later on. We will see how the horses come back. We all know I had three years back-to-back with the favorite leading to the Derby and [none] of the three horses made it. So I hope the people give me the opportunity to watch the horses work, and then we’ll make a decision later on. I’d be very stupid if I made a decision right now.”
On the pace of the Wood: “We expected there was not going to be a lot of pace. Nothing finishes on the lead. The plan came out just the way we thought it. It was pretty easy though, really.”
Bryan Sullivan of Let’s Go Stable, winning owner of Verrazano (No. 8): “It feels great. We had never won a Grade 1 for Let’s Go. I’m so happy for Kevin [Scatuorchio] and all our investors. The race was a little weird. We thought the [Freedom Child] would go; he broke a little slow, kinda rushed up. They really walked the dog. I think our horse is better when he’s put into the race earlier. He’s got an incredibly high cruising speed and he kind of puts horses away. It almost set up like a turf race; then, all of a sudden, it was a sprint home. He still hung in and dug and fought. I’m glad he got a fight. We’re happy to move forward. Anything can happen at Churchill but this kind of validates us.”
Chad Brown, trainer of runner-up Normandy Invasion (No. 2): “Javier rode a terrific race, staying closer. He adapted to the pace. The winner was impressive, and Johnny also rode a terrific race. I’m happy with my horse’s performance. I’m very grateful he got up for second, got the points, hopefully, to get into the Derby. If the horse comes back good, I don’t see any reason why a mile and quarter third off the layoff shouldn’t really hit him between the eyes.”
“My main concern, as I said all week, was that he gets out of the gate cleaner, and I thought he did. He’s never going to be a horse who is going to flash early speed, but at the very least, given how sharp he has been working, he’s a horse who should have enough speed to at least adapt to a slow pace. There’s no reason why he should be far off a slow pace. Javier allowed him to [adapt to the slow pace] today by warming him up good and giving him a good, patient ride on the inside. He never really panicked. He waited for his seam, he got it, and he was second best today. With another race under his belt, a little added distance, and some racing luck in the Derby, hopefully it will be his turn to get his nose on the line.”
Javier Castellano, jockey aboard runner-up Normandy Invasion (No. 2): “I’m very proud of the horse. He did an amazing run. This is the first time I rode him, and he made a huge run. One more jump, and I could have won the race. His gallop out was amazing; I had trouble pulling him up. That’s a great feeling when you’re looking at the big picture and the Kentucky Derby.”
Rudy Rodriguez, trainer of third-place finisher Vyjack (No. 5): “We were happy the way he ran. The other horse is a nice horse. He placed himself in a very good position. I was hoping the horse on the lead would go a little faster. [Vyjack] didn’t have the kick he had the other day [in the Gotham] but we were happy the way he ran.
On whether he’s still thinking about the Kentucky Derby: “I have to talk to the owner and see what he decides. I think they already booked everything up, so I guess we’re going think that the plan is to go.”
Joel Rosario, jockey aboard third-place finisher Vyjack (No. 5): “It was a different race than the Gotham. He ran well. Remember, the horse who won is a good horse, too, you know? We were rolling turning for home, but the other horse had an easier trip than I had. I had a good trip, but he probably wanted a little more speed. They were rolling turning for home. My horse is quick, but I couldn’t catch the other one. He gave me everything he had.”