07/31/2013 12:46PM

Dick Jerardi: Verrazano, Palace Malice confirm Kentucky Derby pace play

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Mark Wyville/EQUI-PHOTO
Verrazano, who was part of a fast early pace in the Kentucky Derby, won last Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, earning a 116 Beyer Speed Figure.

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The horses who finished first through fifth in the Kentucky Derby have run a combined seven times since then. None of them has finished first or second in any of those races. Only once has one of those horses run anything like he did in the Derby.

The horses who were first through sixth after a quarter-mile in the Derby have run a combined 11 times since then. They have won the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, the Pegasus, the Jim Dandy, the Haskell, and finished second in the Belmont and second in the Bing Crosby.

If they ever teach the effects of pace at Penn’s Wharton Business School, they will play the 2013 Derby video on a loop. And the brilliant students will devise optimum wagering strategies when a future group of pace-compromised Derby horses emerges.

The Derby top five were 16th, 15th, 17th, 12th, and 18th after a quarter-mile

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Orb got a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the Derby and a pair of 94 Beyers when well back in the Preakness and Belmont. Golden Soul got a 100 in the Derby, an 85 in the Belmont, and a 68 in the Haskell. Revolutionary got a 99 in the Derby and a 90 in the Belmont. Normandy Invasion has not run since the Derby. Mylute got a 99 in the Derby, improved to a 103 when a terrific third in the Preakness and then regressed to a 74 when well beaten in the Jim Dandy.

Palace Malice got an 84 in the Derby after setting that crazy pace. The colt got a 98 when he won the Belmont and a 107 when winning the Jim Dandy. Goldencents chased Palace Malice and got a 32 in the Derby. He earned a 91 when fifth in the Preakness and a 98 when an excellent second in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Falling Sky chased the Derby pace, but has not run back. Verrazano, fourth early in the Derby, finished 14th and got an 81. He won the Pegasus with a 95 and ran one of the great races by a 3-year-old in years when he got a 116 in the Haskell. Vyjack got a 27 in the Derby after chasing from fifth. He came back with an 86 and an 84 in the Belmont and Haskell, but has not come close to recapturing his pre-Derby form. Oxbow, sixth after a quarter-mile at Churchill, got a 90 in the race before winning the Preakness with a 106, finishing second in the Belmont with a 94, and fourth (while sustaining an ankle injury) in the Haskell and earning a 90.

So, we know that pace affects outcomes and figures. We also know that track conditions affect times. And nowhere was that more evident than in the 24 hours between the Jim Dandy at Saratoga and the Haskell at Monmouth Park.

Palace Malice was exceptional in the Jim Dandy, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.37. Before seeing the time, I knew the horse had run a big one just by watching how locked in he was chasing the pace and how he strode out in the stretch. The 107 Beyer was no surprise.

Verrazano was simply awesome in the Haskell. Hardly anybody noticed that Power Broker made a giant move at the eventual winner on the far turn. In fact, it looked like a winning move. Only Verrazano ran away from Power Broker in the stretch and won by nearly 10 lengths, the biggest margin in the history of the race. Verrazano ran his 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.68, 3.31 seconds slower than Palace Malice. Verrazano’s 116 Beyer was no surprise, either, to those who had been monitoring times that day.

Simply put, the Saratoga surface yielded quite fast times on Saturday while the Monmouth surface was exceptionally slow on Sunday. Once the speed of the respective surfaces was accounted for (Saratoga was about four seconds faster at the distance of the two major stakes), the track variants revealed the actual nature of the performances.

By any accounting, Verrazano and Palace Malice were brilliant. So, not only are two of the top 3-year-olds of the winter and spring still running as the calendar turns to August, they are running better than ever. Can’t wait for the Travers and to see what these 3-year-olds might have for the older horses in the fall.