Updated on 07/31/2013 9:13AM

Haskell Invitational: Verrazano much the best

Mark Wyville/Equi-Photo
Verrazano and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational by a record 9 3/4 lengths Sunday at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Verrazano had been devastatingly brilliant before, just never on the big stage. On Sunday, in front of a crowd of 36,294 at Monmouth Park – including a large contingent of friends and family for his locally based ownership group – Verrazano dazzled under the bright lights.

Stalking the pacesetting Oxbow – the winner of the Preakness – until the middle of the far turn, Verrazano seized control of the  $1 million Haskell Invitational approaching the quarter pole, then in the stretch turned New Jersey’s premier Thoroughbred race into a one-horse affair, drawing off to a record-setting 9 3/4-length victory under jockey John Velazquez.

Power Broker finished second by six lengths over Micromanage, who nosed out Oxbow for third.

The margin of victory was the largest in the 46-year history of the Haskell, eclipsing the seven-length margin Bluegrass Cat won by in 2006.

Oxbow finished a head in front of Pick of the Litter. Vyjack and Golden Soul completed the order of finish.

Oxbow appeared to suffer an injury that likely will keep him out of the $1 million Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 24. Jockey Gary Stevens jumped off Oxbow after the race, sensing something was not right.

Deborah Lamparter, the New Jersey state veterinarian based at Monmouth Park, said she arrived at the barn as doctors were finishing taking X-rays of Oxbow’s right ankle.

“It is my understanding that there were no fractures, and it was likely a soft-tissue injury,” Lamparter told the Monmouth publicity department.

Stevens said Oxbow felt off to him after the race.

“When I got him pulled up, I didn’t like what I was feeling,” Stevens said. “He was visibly off. I didn’t want to bring him back in front of the grandstand; I got the weight off of him. He’s fine. He’s walking sound enough, but he wasn’t jogging sound.”

The equine ambulance came onto the track, but Oxbow was walked off by his handlers.

Meanwhile, Verrazano, trained by Todd Pletcher for the locally based Let’s Go Stable of Bryan Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio, put himself back into the 3-year-old picture with his monster performance.

“I would say he made a huge statement today,” said Pletcher, who won the Haskell for a third time. “That was certainly one of if not the most impressive performances any 3-year-old has run this year. I can’t think of too many more that were much better than that – really, ever.”

While the final time of 1:50.68 was the slowest Haskell since 1978, the Monmouth track was deep and slow for most of the humid, overcast afternoon.

Verrazano, a son of More Than Ready, added the Haskell to victories in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, and the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes. Overall, he is 6 for 7, with his only loss a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, which was run over a sloppy track. He has earned $1.5 million.

Verrazano’s victory more than likely earned him a spot in the Travers, where he would take on, among others, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, who won Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga most impressively, and Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Palace Malice also is trained by Pletcher.

“The Travers would be a logical goal, the way he finished today at a mile and an eighth over what was a very deep, demanding, tiring track through the week,” Pletcher said. “He seemed like he handled it really well, finished strongly, pricking his ears at the wire like he was looking for more.”

Velazquez said Verrazano was comfortable sitting off Oxbow early on, got a little into the bridle when Power Broker came to him down the backside, but relaxed again when he got  away from Power Broker.

“He was awesome, man; he was incredible today,” Velazquez said. “He was instant, too. When I asked him, he was right there. I didn’t want to hit him. I hit him with the whip down under the belly to let him know he needed to do something. I never actually had to hit him with the whip until today.”

The winner’s circle was packed with friends and family of the Sullivans and Scatuorchios, who donated 1.5 percent of the purse, or $9,000, to a local charity – savethejerseyshore.org – that helps Jersey Shore residents recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

“Tears in my eyes, special,” Sullivan said of the victory. “Lot of pressure; horse showed up, and he’s a really, really nice horse.”

Mark More than 1 year ago
Mr watchmaker MarkLess than a minute ago Your comment is awaiting moderation The derby form has been turned on its head. Orbs win was strictly a result of a pace meltdown period. To have a race carry that much weight in ones opinion is silly to me. Just because its the Kentucky derby. It was run over a sloppy surface with s suicidal pace. Had WTC not been steadied sharply HD just as well could have been the winner. And I don't know of anyone placing him near the top of their most talented 3 year olds list. Orb will be shown once again what he is come the Travers. An also ran.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Mark 1 hour ago/ ................--------------- nothing.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
MONMOUTH PARK REPORT: As usual, I went to the Haskell at Beautiful monmouth Park. My grade to Monmouth Park this year is a resounding "F-" One would ask why............ First of all, I used to buy preferred seating, but stopped because I have been to Monmouth Park 1000+ times and LOVE sitting in the third floor balcony about 70 yards from the finish line. Each year I call to see if i need tickets and these are open to the public. This year "ent a cops" came by and asked people to give up there seats (when there were hundres upon hundres left) for the people they oversold "preferred" seating to. No one ogt up other than a few people. After all, these seats were no "for sale" and we did pay to get in the track. FURTHERMORE, I have been to live racing on an average of 150x a year for 30 years and noticed the track crew raking the area from the stretch from the 1/4 pole to the finish line about 20x befor eht eraces started. I was there at 10:30 when the gates opened. This seemed strange to me, but I figured it all out after the first race when I noticed that the times were blazing down the backstretch, but dead as a corpse through the stretch. Basically, if you got a nice lead down the backstretch and held clear to the lane, it was tough for closers to pick up ground due to the DEEP DIRT. If, on the otherhand, you dueled down the backstretch, you were certain to tire and the stalkers all beat you home. This was the WORST JOB i have ever seen of track maintenence in my life! Overall rating>>>>> F- Someone should be fired over that mess. The key to winning was to play the few horses that had superior early speed, as they had no chance of quitting if they got clear. Take Charge Indy was ready to draw out by 15, if you watched the race live, but pulled up real quick. Verrazano, looked better than he really is, as he caught slow fractions and was alone when the ohters hit the DEEP
Perl More than 1 year ago
"Basically, if you got a nice lead down the backstretch and held clear to the lane, it was tough for closers to pick up ground due to the DEEP DIRT. If, on the otherhand, you dueled down the backstretch, you were certain to tire and the stalkers all beat you home. " Isn't this usually the case, regardless of track condition?
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
No. The track was decidedly made to help stalkers when it normally favors speed. Find me a track where horses go 44 for the half and finish in 1;11 or 1;12. ODD, INDEED.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Don't really understand your assessment Steve. Standard stuff is firm track aids speed and deep track aids closers. Verrazano drew away with authority in what you say was the deepest part of the track so how could that make him look better than he is when according to you it should make his performance even more impressive.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
Verrazanno drew away because Oxbox was injured and he had a nice lead on a bunch of weaker horses that had no closing ability and had a bias against them. Just look at the fractins on every race.... ALL strange indeed. Paco Lopez had it figured out. He rode his horses perfectly,
Vicki McKnight More than 1 year ago
Ivette, Itsmyluckyday was ridden by Mike Smith when he was hurt. Experienced jockeys saved them all from further injury.
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
Well the slow time,and a Lame Oxbow, have certainly taken the luster off his win again.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Lol . Wow. What planet r u on?
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
Lol. I knew i'd get a responce from you Mark! Do you like him in the Travers.....or is he gonna duck his entrymate Police Malice??
Perl More than 1 year ago
I'm curious about that myself. But as for the Beyer, the folks at Beyer industries are once again turning what should be a science into an art form. The Beyer is inflated because he won by almost ten lengths. Is this accurate? Well, that's not for me to say. The track was playing slow, but it still wasn't THAT much faster than other stakes. The Jim Dandy came back much faster, relative to the times leading up to that point in the day. But because 'Malice didn't win by a dozen lengths, they gave him a 107 beyer and just went on the assumption that the track was speeding up during the day. With three turf races preceeding the Jim Dandy, and a turf race after it, who really knows what the truth is? In other words, you can run these Beyer numbers up the flag pole. Meanwhile, hoping VZ doesn't duck the Travers, but I wouldn't be surprised if they announce he is going to train up to the PA Derby.
Mark More than 1 year ago
the only one who may quack imo is orb . Verrazano is the one who went to the grade 1 while pm was spotted in the grade 2 . they will meet in the travers.
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
If Pletcher thinks PM is the better horse, he won't go to the Travers with Verazanno.
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
My cousin taught me 45 years ago that times are deceiving and are not as important as other things such as class. Many track records used to be owned by claimers, some set in very cheap races. The time of a race doesn't tell you when a horse gets used up in a span of a few seconds trying to keep pace with a better horse. Or that some horses may be fast but fold when challenged. Who a horse beats is more important than time in most instances.
kc m More than 1 year ago
when a race has been run over the same track for 40-some-odd years, and all but 3 races had winning times above 1:49, you can't say time doesn't matter. this win was the wood memorial all over again. verrazano=gemoloist part deux.
Perl More than 1 year ago
He's better than Gemologist, by virtue of his wins since the Derby. Gem did nothing after getting exposed in the Derby. You gotta give VZ a bit more credit than that bro.
Patricia Adamo More than 1 year ago
You need to turn your brain In for one that works. Never read a bigger bunch of negative bull my life.
kc m More than 1 year ago
apparently you didn't read your own post then...
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Yeh, a 116 Beyer and galloping out like he had another 3/8's in him. jeez leweez What does it take for a horse to get an "atta boy" from you?
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
VERREZANO ran a visually impressive race.he has a huge stride and when allowed to track a slow pace he always runs big...but lets get real OXBOW did not show up and its not surprising considering the way lukas was training him that something was amiss.as for the others POWER BROKER is a nice horse but no world beater and he broke slow .MICROMANAGE is just a nice allowance maybe gr3 horse at best ..GOLDEN SOUL is completely off form and needs major time off and monmouth was not the right track for him as a dead closer.some of the others are pure allowance types at best....so while VERREZANO looked very very good winning and you cant fault him for the short comings of the competition the fact remains nobody showed up.
jttf More than 1 year ago
the 116 beyer proves that this horse was able to reach his full potential. keep your talented horses off of lasix at the age of two. do not run your horse in the kentucky derby and two weeks later in the preakness. dehydrating your horse with lasix regularly, will have bad effects. verrazano just proved that.
Ivette Pitre More than 1 year ago
OMG what wrong with Gary Stevens.....he rode ITSMYLUCKYDAY,TAKE CHARGE INDY,and OXBOW and they all came out hurt!!! Plus TAKE CHARGE INDY and OXBOW in 1 day what's up with that? WEIRD.
Tyler Mathis More than 1 year ago
He didn't ride IMLD, that was Mike Smith. But the other two breaking down in one day is pretty strange.
Patricia Adamo More than 1 year ago
Not so much weird as very unlucky...but being the excellent jockey he is, he instantly recognized the horses weren't right, and save them both from dire disaster. Great job Gary.
Vincent Spathanas More than 1 year ago
The Travers Stakes this year just may have a record setting attendence. Orb, Palace Malice, Verrazano and yes, Oxbow, along with Will Take Charge, Moreno and a few others... It sure looks like the best Mid-Summer Derby in a very long time. Who do you like ?
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
The fresh horses have to be considered. Not sure if Verrazano would like the mile and a quarter distance, though he might be able to manage it. Always look towards the fresh horses. None seem to be good enough or strong enough to dominate racing like many of the horses in the old days.
James Woodrum More than 1 year ago
orb will be rested,but after palices win and verrazonos win looks to be a good betting race.
Mike Rozier More than 1 year ago
Right with ya Vincent. Really been looking forward to this summer's 3YO stakes races and thus far they haven't disappointed. Palace and Verrazano both impressed over the weekend and we now have a big stage set for a fantastic Travers. Easily one of the best in years. Hopefully Oxbow can be healthy, but even without him it should be a great field with a lot of great wagering opportunities. Sad to see so much complaining and hand-wringing over one of the deepest 3YO crops we have seen in a while that are all still competing heavily with one another. I think we'll get a couple of these to run in the BC Classic when all is said and done and actually be solid contenders.
Vincent Spathanas More than 1 year ago
I agree Mike, I believe this years 3 year old crop is a tallented for sure... If Vyjack makes it to the gate, he has got to come from off the pace... However, I am off of his band wagon. Verrazano is a freak at Monmouth, can he carry that on to Saratoga, we shall see...
Kell More than 1 year ago
what does lukas think,,he runs that little colt every other day
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
I've been playing ponies for 40 years, and no one comes close to having the number of horses to break down in big races other.than Lucas.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Its ridiculous they cant let him run this horse at Travers