A lot has happened in 2013. If you are talking about the racing career of Verrazano ... everything has happened in 2013. The talented son of More Than Ready never raced at two, and will never race again after this year, but from New Year’s Day until Thanksgiving weekend, not many horses have garnered more attention than Verrazano. At his best, he has been everything you could want to see in a thoroughbred race horse. A powerhouse with speed, many of his races have ended with him sprinting away from his competition with disdainful ease. There have been other times, though, when the strapping bay has looked all too mortal. A winner of 6-of-9, it has either been feast or famine for Verrazano in 2013. Six impressive victories have been checkered by three high profile losses. One week away from an excellent field assembling for Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile, I cannot help but wonder just which Verrazano we will see in his seasonal, and career finale.
Will it be the colt who Todd Pletcher unveiled to run away from maiden and allowance fields this winter at Gulfstream? Combined he won those first two career races by 24 lengths and in real race horse time. Or maybe we will see the Verrazano that struggled in the Kentucky slop, and spit the bit by the time the Derby field had hit the famous homestretch. His undefeated star fell as fast as it took Orb to run right by him on that damp afternoon.
But Verrazano rebounded from Derby disappointment, and perhaps his stock rose even higher with two smashing performances on the Jersey Shore. Itsmyluckyday may have been injured in the Pegasus, but that likely had no bearing on the outcome in Verrazano’s big first race after the Kentucky Derby. If you thought the Pegasus win was powerful, than you really had to like what you saw in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. Verrazano was at his absolute best, leaving a good field of three-year-olds left in his dominating wake.
Then came an important test in the Travers. Maybe 1 ¼ miles is just too far, because the 8-5 favorite had real no answers for the quartet of Will Take Charge, Moreno, Orb, and Palace Malice in the Mid-Summer Derby.
The highs have been high, and the lows have been low for Verrazano, but maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. A three-length score in the Tampa Bay Derby, or a troubled, fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, (Johnny V was hotter than a steamed clam after the trip), might be more representative of the real Verrazano.
One thing is for sure, if he is to go out a winner in his swan song, he will have defeated the strongest field of his career in the Cigar Mile. With horses like Groupie Doll, Goldencents, Flat Out, Alpha, Private Zone, Forty Tales, Gentlemen’s Bet, Clearly Now and Capo Bastone also pointing for the November 30 Grade 1, its shaping up to be one of the more interesting events of the year. It would seem to win this one, we will need to see a patient Verrazano. One who can lay a bit off a sure to be fast early pace, and prove resolute down the Aqueduct stretch.
You know there was one Verrazano performance that I’ve failed to mention so far, and it just might be the one that holds the most bearing to his Cigar Mile chances. On April 6, Verrazano relaxed early, pounced on the turn, and then fought his way to victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Not only is it his only race so far at Aqueduct, but it is the only time that he has won a close race. This type of experence may become very important in the Cigar Mile, because if Verrazano is to make one last stand, and go out a winner, it’s going to take some real heart to get it done.