Verrazano emphatically proved that he’s back in the 3-year-old championship picture as he rolled to a decisive victory in the 46th running of the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on Sunday.
With a crowd of 36,284 on hand roaring in approval, 11-10 favorite Verrazano left the others gasping far behind through the stretch as he cruised to win by 9 ¾ lengths over Power Broker, the largest winning margin in the history of the Haskell.
Micromanage, six lengths farther back, won the scramble for third at the wire, a nose before Oxbow. Pick of the Litter, Vyjack and Golden Soul completed the order of finish in the field of seven.
Verrazano, owned by the partnership of Let’s Go Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, gave trainer Todd Pletcher his third Haskell score and jockey John Velazquez his second with the romping score and paid $4.20, $3.20 and $2.10 across the board.
Power Broker, who was attempting to get trainer Bob Baffert his seventh Haskell win, paid $4.80 and $3.60 and completed the $22 exacta. Micromanage, also trained by Pletcher, paid $4 to show.
Verrazano, a bay colt by More Than Ready – Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway, was winning his sixth race in seven lifetime starts. The only blemish on his record was a disappointing effort in the Kentucky Derby, when he ran 14th behind Orb. The winner’s share of $600,000 pushed his lifetime bankroll of $1,551,300.
The colt signaled his return to winning ways at Monmouth on June 16 with a romping 9 1/4-length score in the Pegasus Stakes.
“He made a huge statement today,” Pletcher said. “This was one of the most impressive – if not the most impressive – races by any 3-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,” Pletcher said. “Power Broker came to his hip and Johnny (Velazquez) asked him to go and he immediately took over the race.”
Pletcher, who won back-to-back runnings of the Haskell with Bluegrass Cat (2006, Velazquez up and the previous biggest winner by 7 legnths) and Any Given Saturday (2007), said Verrazano will stay on the path that could carry him to an Eclipse Award despite the fact he did not win one of the Triple Crown events.
“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 (August 24 at Saratoga) 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 said he encountered no problems winning the Haskell.
“We had the perfect trip,” the rider said. “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.”
Bob Baffert, who watched the race from his base in California, was pleased with the ffort of Power Broker.
“He ran a good race,” Baffert said. “I think he thinks he won. I don’t know if he ever saw Verrazano go by. We were a little overmatched today. He’s still a very immature horse, and he got a lot out of the race.”
As expected, Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow charged to the early lead with Vyjack and Pick of the Litter chasing around the clubhouse turn. Verrazano, on the outside, moved up to the leaders after a half-mile in :48 1/5. He powered up after the lead on the far turn, after six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, and then asserted himself through the stretch.
He passed the one mile mark in 1:37 4/5 and then just rolled to the wire with no competition in sight.