Verrazano Dazzles With Easy Haskell Victory
Verrazano led the 3-year-old ranks this spring, and after his thorough demolishing of a good field in the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) (VIDEO) July 28 at Monmouth Park, it looks like he's right back on top.
Todd Pletcher trains Verrazano, a son of More than Ready , for Let's Go Stable and Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith. It was the third Haskell win for the multiple Eclipse-Award winning conditioner, and his first since he won Monmouth's signature race back-to-back in 2006 and 2007 with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday.
Pletcher skipped the rest of the Triple Crown series after a rough Derby trip, bringing the strapping bay colt back in Monmouth's Pegasus Stakes (gr. III), which he won by 9 1/4 lengths June 16.
Bettors made Verrazano the heavy favorite in the field of seven, with Oxbow, coming off a game runner-up effort to Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the second pick at 3-1 odds. Grade I winner Power Broker, attempting to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a fourth consecutive Haskell victory, was 5-1.
"I thought I was in a good position early, but when I called on him I just didn't have the same horse underneath me that's been there in his previous races," Stevens said of Oxbow. "It was very disappointing."
"We had the perfect trip," Velazquez said. "He was incredible today. When I asked him he was right there. He was in a perfect spot and (Oxbow) was moving easily so I moved (Verrazano) out to the middle of the track so no one could keep me pinned in. It looked like (Oxbow) was going a little slow on the lead so I went up to put a little pressure on him. Power Broker moved at us a little and my horse just took off. He was real impressive."
Baffert, who has won a record six Haskell renewals, was wavering on whether to run Power Broker but was satisfied with second.
"I don't know if he ever saw Verrazano go by," Baffert said. "We were a little overmatched today. (Power Broker) is still a very immature horse; he got a lot out of the race. We would have liked to have won, but nobody was going to beat Verrazano."
Micromanage, with Joe Bravo aboard, ran on well through the stretch on the outside to grab the show spot by a nose over Oxbow.
"This is just amazing," said Sullivan. "This is my home track and it all worked to plan. This is something we'll cherish for long, long time."
Verrazano is a half brother to 2012 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner El Padrino .
"Power Broker came to his hip and Johnny asked him to go and he immediately took over the race," Pletcher noted. "He'll ship to Saratoga tomorrow morning. The plan all along was to run in the Haskell and if he showed he could handle distances of 1 1/8 miles plus, the Travers would be a logical next spot.
"The way he finished today over a track that's been deep and demanding all week with his ears pricked at the wire showed he handled it pretty well. Those of us who've been around this horse have always had a lot of confidence in him and anyone who knows him isn't really surprised by what they see."
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