Undefeated Verrazano and Davis Stakes winner Falling Sky lead a field of nine 3-year-olds for Saturday's $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16-miles.
Making his stakes debut will be highly regarded Verrazano, trained by Todd Pletcher. Owned by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier, the colt will start from post 6 with regular jockey John Velazquez.
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's a good-sized colt that carries his weight really well. He's very professional and he's got that unique quality of speed and stamina to go with it," Pletcher said about Verrazano.
"I kind of picked out the Tampa Derby because I like the spacing and we felt like March 9 was a race that could set him up for just about anything after that and would leave the window open for the Florida Derby back in three weeks," Pletcher noted. "We also put him on a nice schedule for the Wood Memorial a month later and if we needed an extra week then we still have the Arkansas Derby as sort of as a third plan."
Pletcher also has Park City in the race. Undefeated in two starts, the colt will break from post 8 with Edgar Prado riding.
Trained by John Terranova II, Falling Sky went wire-to-wire in winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2. The colt will start from the far outside post on Saturday with Jose Espinoza again in the saddle.
Owned by Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger, Falling Sky is the winner of three of his four career starts and $164,800.
Part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Derby will award 50 points to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 for third and 5 for fourth.
Here is the complete Tampa Bay Derby field in post position order: Eton Blue, Joe Bravo; Purple Egg, Elvis Trujillo; Honorable Dillon, Corey Lanerie; Java's War, Willie Martinez; Dynamic Sky, Joel Rosario; Verrazano, John Velazquez; Offlee Fast, Jozbin Santana; Park City, Edgar Prado and Falling Sky, Jose Espinoza.
Saturday's post-time will be approximately 5:15 p.m. (ET).