Verrazano powers to an impressive success in the Haskell InvitationalPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
in Haskell romp
Report: USA, Sunday
Monmouth Park: William Hill Haskell Invitational (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo
THE highly rated Verrazano (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) proved there was enormous substance behind the hype with a superstar performance in the Haskell, where he slammed his Grade 1 rivals by nearly ten lengths in a commanding display.
Sent off 11-10 favourite, the son of More Than Ready took his career record to six out of seven - the sole defeat coming on a sloppy surface in the Kentucky Derby - as he cruised home by a record margin of nine and three-quarter lengths from Power Broker. Preakness winner Oxbow was run out of third by Micromanage.
"He made a huge statement today," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "This was one of the most impressive - if not the most impressive - races by any three-year-old this year. I would say this was his most impressive race for a horse that's near perfect minus the sloppy race in the Kentucky Derby.
"You couldn't have drawn it up any better. Power Broker came to his hip and Johnny asked him to go and he immediately took over the race."
The Coolmore team are part-owners of Verrazano, who showed a new dimension to his game as he sat outside Oxbow in the early running before being sent on at the far turn. His final time was 1min 50.68sec.
Pletcher, who won back-to-back runnings of the Haskell in 2006 and 2007 with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday, suggested Verrazano will now head for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 24.
"The plan all along was to run in the Haskell, and if he showed he could handle distances of a mile and an eighth plus, the Travers would be a logical next spot," Pletcher said. "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."
Velazquez added: "We had the perfect trip and he was incredible today. When I asked him, he was right there. He was in the perfect spot and Gary Stevens' horse [Oxbow] was moving easily, so I moved him 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."
Also on Sunday
Del Mar: Bing Crosby Stakes (Grade 1) 6f, AW, 3yo+
Points Offthebench (Tim Yakteen/Mike Smith) made his first venture into any sort of stakes company a winning one at the top level as he held the late charge of Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents by a head.
The 17-5 winner, who was taking his career record to five from seven, was a first Grade 1 scorer for his trainer after eight years with a licence.
Monmouth Park: Molly Pitcher Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo+ f/m
Odds-on favourite Joyful Victory (Larry Jones/Rosie Napravnik) erased the memory of a disappointing display last time to overpower inferior rivals with a front-running victory. The 7-10 shot scored by seven and a half lengths eased down.
Monmouth Park: Monmouth Cup (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo+ f/m
Last year's Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy broke down when cruising on the lead and will require surgery after being diagnosed with a condylar fracture of the near-fore. Track specialist Pants On Fire (Kelly Breen/Paco Lopez) dived through a hole on the rail to take advantage of the favourite's demise.
Monmouth Park: Matchmaker Stakes (Grade 3) 1m1f, turf, 3yo+ f/m
Blinkers worked the oracle for former Dermot Weld-trained Starstruck (Larry Jones/Rosie Napravnik), who landed her first US success. The four-year-old won a Dundalk handicap for Weld in October.
Monmouth Park: Oceanport Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f, turf, 3yo+
A stunning display from Silver Max (Dale Romans/Robby Albarado) who returned to the form which enabled him to land a string of stakes races as a three-year-old in 2012. He made all from the inside berth for a runaway victory.
Saratoga: Amsterdam Stakes (Grade 2) 6½f, dirt, 3yo
Forty Tales (Todd Pletcher/Joel Rosario) completed a graded-stakes hat-trick when rallying from well off the pace to deny Mico Margarita. The Grade 1 King's Bishop beckons for the winner.