HOW HE GOT HERE
Verifying opened his career with a maiden win at Saratoga in late August. He received plenty of hype leading into the race, went off a 3/5 favorite, and wired the field in fairly cozy fashion. He was brought back just over a month later in the Champagne Stakes [G1] at Aqueduct, where he pursued a pace that did not hold up while also having to face an off-track for the first time in his career. He ran a game and clear second, but was no match for the winner Blazing Sevens. Trainer Brad Cox still marched onto the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [G1] and the colt was disregarded at 16-1. He was never really involved that day, sitting a mid-pack trip and failing to improve when the running picked up, coming home 5th.
After a few months off, Verifying returned in mid-January while taking a drop in class. Into a first level allowance at Oaklawn and off as a heavy favorite, he sat a pretty, pressing trip before drawing off at will to a 5 1/4 length score. That performance turned many heads and had onlookers believing this colt had taken a strong step forward from two to three years old. This was so much the case that he went off the 3/2 favorite in his next start, the Rebel Stakes [G2]. In that event, he sat the perfect pocket trip throughout the race but was unable to maneuver to clean air when the running got going, being stymied by tiring foes at multiple occasions inside the final quarter mile. He finished up a mundane 4th, well beaten by Confidence Game. Connections did not lose any faith and made one more push at Derby points via the Blue Grass Stakes [G1]. Once again sent off at a fairly low price, Verifying’s race drew up very favorably on paper and it played out that way. He sat right off a very slow early pace set by a longshot before assuming the lead into the lane, only to be outfought in the late stages by Tapit Trice.
HOW HE FITS HERE
Verifying likely plays as a mild longshot that many will use on their tickets. He has remained competitive at the highest level throughout his career and comes off a career best performance, posting a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the Blue Grass. He should also be able to sit a solid trip with a lack of early speed signed on in this Derby, meaning Verifying will likely be within two lengths of the lead through the preliminary stages of the Derby. He has, however, failed to notch a win in the graded stakes column despite four attempts. The Blue Grass set up perfectly for him, yet he was unable to fend off Tapit Trice down the lane.
He parallels very similarly to Highly Motivated (2021) and Flameaway (2018) in my eyes. Those were two runners who entered the Derby off of career best runner-up efforts in the Blue Grass and looked to be able to sit favorable trips in the Derby. However, they had both also proven on many outings to be one step below the quality of a Derby winner. That profile seems to fit Verifying to a tee.
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Verifying is one of 4 colts in the 2023 Kentucky Derby trained by Brad Cox. Needing very little introduction, Cox is a two-time Eclipse Award winner, Kentucky’s top trainer at the moment, and was a de facto winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. It is clear he is hungry for his first real Derby win given the firepower he brings in this year. Tyler Gaffalione will reunite with Verifying having ridden him for the first time in the Blue Grass. Gaffalione has been the perennial leader of the Churchill Downs riding colony and can ride this track better than anyone in the Derby. He is currently 0-for-5 in the Kentucky Derby, with only one top 10 finish coming in 2019 with War of Will (7th). That ride, of course, is best known for being the catalyst for Maximum Security’s disqualification.
This colt will make history as the first son of a Triple Crown winner to run in the Kentucky Derby since 1991. He is by Justify, of course the barely seen winner of the 2018 Triple Crown. Verifying is out of Repent mare, Diva Delite, making him a half-sister to champion mare Midnight Bisou. Certainly hard to knock this colt on pedigree and he is very likely to handle the Derby distance.
Verifying does have intriguing qualities to his resume leading into the 2023 Kentucky Derby, but he lacks a high level win to back it up. While he’s been competitive, or had excuses, in the majority of his stakes losses, we eventually have to boil it down to him lacking the punch to win these big races. He was provided a perfect set up in the Blue Grass and could not take advantage of it. He is certainly going to be in the position to sit the trip again on the First Saturday in May, but will he be good enough to finish the job this time?