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Kentucky Derby News: Palm Beach Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby and More

We’re into March and that means one major thing in the horseracing community – just two months remain until the 2013 Kentucky Derby gets underway at Churchill Downs. Over the past two weeks, a series of stakes races have been run as horses and trainers look to qualify for the annual Run for the Roses, but there are also a number of important races on the horizon in terms of jockeying for position.

Let’s take a look back and forward…

— There were some big developments out of Palm Beach, Fla. on the weekend as Rydilluc, a Gary Contessa trainee, captured the Palm Beach Stakes in impressive fashion by outlasting Charming Kitten and Reporting Star.

While the purse was nice ($150,000), there were no Derby points awarded for this race, meaning it was mostly about show, status and claiming a spot as a legit contender heading into May.

It was also a chance for Contessa to talk up his colt, who is now 3-for-3 in his turf starts this season and showing true star potential.

“You see what he looks like turning for home with the stride he’s got,” Contessa told Bristnet.com. “He’s an amazing horse.

“At the top of the stretch(…) he kicks in like that and draws off [and] my heart is in my throat. That’s what keeps us getting up in the morning – a horse like this. It’s going to be fun getting to the bottom of it and find out exactly what he is.”

— Looking ahead, the second week in March promises to be a major one for two horses on a number of Derby watch lists: Verrazano and Flashback.

Both are undefeated this season and will put their records on the line against strong fields at Tampa Bay Downs. For Verrazano, Tampa Bay will be his first start going around two turns – meaning a lot of eyes will be on both the horse and jockey John Velazquez, who will have to show he can ratio Verrazano’s speed right from the start of the race.

Verrazano is from the Todd Pletcher stable and you have to think Pletcher will have a small bit of desire coursing through his veins as he tries to capture the Tampa Bay race for the first time in nine years. He’s had three favorites run over the last three years (Spring Hill Farm in 2012, Brethren in 2011 and Super Saver in 2010) but all three disappointed at Tampa Bay, failing to win or place.

As for Flashback, he’ll likely be the favorite heading into Tampa Bay. The Bob Baffert-trained colt has finished second in each of his last two runnings.

— Away from the track, the Kentucky Derby unveiled this year’s 2013 Pegasus Pins on Friday at an event at Louisville’s Hard Rock Café.

The pins sell annually for $5 with proceeds accounting for 25-30% of the Derby’s annual revenue. They serve as admission-like tokens to a variety of Derby events and, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, more than 300,000 are sold annually.

About Tennessee Leduc

Born in Summersville Kentucky, Tennessee is an impassioned fan of horse racing, women, civilized debauchery, and... mint juleps. He writes, he reads, he listens, but above all he experiences the world he lives in.

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