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Originally published Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 9:34 PM

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Verrazano confirms status as a major Kentucky Derby contender | Horse racing

Verrazano won the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, improving to 4 for 4 and confirming his status as a major player in the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

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JAMAICA, N.Y. — Even Todd Pletcher figures he has the Kentucky Derby favorite after Verrazano won the $1 million Wood Memorial and kept his record perfect through four races.

"Nothing seems to faze him," the nation's leading trainer said Saturday after his 3-year-old colt held off Normandy Invasion by three-quarters of a length at Aqueduct in his final prep before the May 4 Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

"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 favorite."

Pletcher has sent out the Wood winner in three of the last four years.

The result leaves winning jockey John Velazquez with a Derby decision — whether to ride Verrazano or Orb, the Florida Derby winner trained by Shug McGaughey.

Verrazano ran 1-1/8 miles in 1 minute, 50.27 seconds. He paid $3.60 to win in the Grade I race.

Normandy Invasion and third-place Vyjack are considered likely Derby starters.

Goldencents wins

ARCADIA, Calif. — Trainer Doug O'Neill is headed back to the Kentucky Derby a year after winning the race — and this time, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is along for the ride.

Goldencents won the $750,750 Santa Anita Derby over even-money Flashback by 1 ¼ lengths not long before Pitino's team rallied to beat Wichita State 72-68 in the NCAA semifinals in Atlanta to complete the horse-loving coach's sporting daily double.

Pitino owns 5 percent of Goldencents under his stable name of RAP Racing.

O'Neill sent out I'll Have Another to win the Derby and Preakness last year.

Ridden by Kevin Krigger, Goldencents ran 1-1/8 miles in 1:48.76 and paid $15 to win.

It was the first victory in a Grade I race for the 29-year-old Krigger, who led the jockey standings at Emerald Downs in Auburn in 2005.

"Right here, right now is the biggest moment of my life," he said. "It's only going to get better — the horse, me, the team."

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