Verrazano heads into the Kentucky Derby on May 4 as the clear, unbeaten favorite after winning the Wood Memorial Saturday at New York.
Despite being a perfect 3-0 before Saturday's race, there had been questions about Verrazano's ability to perform against quality competition. He answered those doubts with flying colors at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Verrazano, the early-morning favorite at 4-5, staved off a challenge from Vyjack, who was previously undefeated to win the $1 million Wood. Normandy Invasion closed with a flurry to overtake Vyjack and finished in second place.
With John Velazquez up, Verrazano took control of the race at the third-quarter mark and was able to hang on to defeat his rivals. Verrazano covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.27 and paid $3.60.
"When there are horse likes this, there is only one result that's satisfying, so there is always a little more pressure in those situations," Verrazano's trainer, Todd Pletcher, told USA Today. "It's more of a relief after the race than sometimes a celebration, but it's a position you want to be in."
And while Louisville Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino was guiding his squad to the NCAA Championship game on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, a horse that he has a stake in -- Goldencents -- punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby by winning the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.
With Kevin Krigger aboard, Goldencents ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:48.76 and paid $15, $5.40 and $3.40.
Goldencents has now won four of six starts in his career.
Another Derby tune-up -- the $500,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland -- will be held on Sunday as part of the Oaklawn Handicap. Each of the nine entries in the race is a Triple Crown nominee.
Corby, who has won his two starts as a 3-year-old, was made the 2-1 favorite.