Even-money favorite Verrazano romped to an easy victory at the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) Sunday at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. With the impressive 9.75-lengths win, the son of More Than Ready established himself once again as one of the top three-year-old colts in the nation.
Ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher, Verrazano ran the type of race everybody has been expecting him to do.
In a race that had plenty of speed horses in it, jockey Gary Stevens took Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow to the lead at the beginning of the race, with Vyjack under Paco Lopez right behind him at the rail and Verrazano progressively moving forward in third from his outside position.
Power Broker under Rosie Napravnik was running fourth but looked uncomfortable as he was stepping awkwardly, followed by Pick of the Litter at the rail, Micromanage to his outside and as expected Golden Soul was the early trailer.
They round the first turn and entered the backstretch in the same order, but Velazquez had pinned down Verrazano right to the side of Oxbow. This prompted Napravnik to place Power Broker slightly behind Verrazano to his outside as Velazquez kept looking under his arm right to them.
Velazquez ran a patient race, not looking to make an early move. He looked like he had a lot of horse on Verrazano as they made the lead with ease at the three-eights pole after Power Broker made his first bid on the far outside.
Verrazano kept cruising as they reached the quarter-pole and Velazquez queued him for his run entering the homestretch. He responded by switching leads and impressively started to pull away from the field winning with ease by 9.75 lengths, which eclipsed the previous winning-margin record at the Haskell established by Bluegrass Cat in 2006.
Confidentially, Bluegrass Cat was ridden by Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher.
Verrazano debuted on Jan. 1 this year and won his first four starts. He was one of the top horses during the Derby Trail and headed to the Kentucky Derby with high hopes as one of the top three-year-old colts in the division.
But seems like he wasn't able to handle the sloppy track and frantic pace upfront that day, finishing 14th with a slight cut in his leg and was taken off the Triple Crown path. He returned to action in last month’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, where he rolled home by 9.25 lengths.
This win in the Haskell, propels Verrazano back in the run for Eclipse Award honors in the three-year-old division along with Orb, Oxbow and Palace Malice, who each won a leg of the Triple Crown this year.
The $1 million Travers Stakes will be run in Saratoga on Aug. 24. If he indeed ends up running on it, the race might very well be a decisive one on the division, a clash of the titans with Palace Malice and Orb already pointing to it.
Jockey Gary Stevens dismounted Oxbow after they finished the race, and although the equine ambulance showed up, he didn't he had to be vanned off the track. No word yet on Oxbow's future plans, but he might skip the Travers.
Verrazano is a son of More Than Ready out of the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock. He is owned in a partnership by Let's Go Stables, Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith. His career record now stands at 7-6-0-0 with total earnings of $1,551,300.
|William Hill Haskell Invitational S. - Grade 1|
|Purse: $1 Million|
|Distance: One And One Eighth Miles On The Dirt|
|Track Condition: Fast|
|Winning Time: 1:50.68 Fractionals: 23.90 48.22 1:12.43 1:37.96|
|7||Verrazano||John R. Velazquez||4.20||3.20||2.10|
|4||Power Broker||Rosie Napravnik||3.60||2.60|
|Also ran: 5—Oxbow , 2—Pick of the Litter , 1—Vyjack , 3—Golden Soul|
|Winning Owner: Let's Go Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith|
|Winning Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher|
|WINNING Breeder: Emory A. Hamilton|
|Wager Type||Winning Numbers||Payoff|
|$1 Pick 3||8-1-7 (correct)||$268.60|
|$1 Pick 4||7/10-8-1-7 (3 correct)||$1709.30|
|$2 Daily Double||8-2-5-6||$26.60|