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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Anatomy of the Three-Year-Old Champion

Verrazano Haskell2 615 X 400


Last night I wrote an opinion piece on Verrazano, that became a lightning rod. Some agreed with my stance that handing over the three-year-old championship to Verrazano, after his impressive score in the Haskell, was extremely premature. Others strongly disagreed, fully expecting Verrazano to go to Saratoga and prove too good for classic winners Palace Malice and Orb. That’s good. A difference of opinion, and the horse who elicits such strong opinion, is undoubtedly good for racing. We will find out soon enough if Verrazano can build on his electrifying score on the Jersey Shore. Today, I wanted to take a look at this debate from a different angle by analyzing recent three-year-old champions, and what it took for them to end the year with an Eclipse Award.

To no surprise, the overriding theme of any champion three-year-old male’s resume, has been the Triple Crown. More specifically, winning at least one leg of the Triple Crown. Of the last dozen winners of the award, all of them had success in either the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or Belmont. Advantage Palace Malice and Orb. Well, sort of. 

Of those twelve champions, seven, Point Given, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Big Brown, and I’ll Have Another, won two legs of the Triple Crown, while only five, Bernardini, Curlin, Summer Bird, Lookin at Lucky, and Animal Kingdom won just one leg. So, in a year where three different horses won America’s glamour series, perhaps the door remains open for a horse who did not win any of the three, to break the twelve year streak, and be named champion.

Going farther back, history gets a little better for Verrazano’s chances, but not significantly so. The impressive son of More Than Ready is trying to become only the fourth horse in the past 30 years to win an Eclipse Award sans a spring win at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, or Belmont. Only Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Tiznow, Jockey Club Gold Club victor, Skip Away, and Travers winner, Holy Bull, have been able to turn the trick in the last three decades.

Of the three, certainly the 1994 champion, Holy Bull, is the one that most closely compares to Verrazano. A winner of 8-of-10 that year, the speedy gray colt had a very similar Kentucky Derby result to Verrazano, when he never could get to the lead before fading to finish 12th. Much like this year’s talented Todd Pletcher trainee, Holy Bull was able to bounce back from a Derby disappointment in high style. In successive races, Holy Bull won the Met Mile, Dwyer, Haskell, Travers, and Woodward. Of the spectacular five-race streak, only the ten furlong Travers proved to be a real test, as he bravely held off the strong challenge by Concern to win the Mid-Summer Derby. Even in a year when Tabasco Cat won the Preakness and the Belmont, Holy Bull was a very deserving three-year-old champion.

While a 6-for-7 Verrazano, clearly has his work cut out for him, history does show he has a chance to buck the trend of needing Triple Crown success to win a three-year-old championship. Four stakes wins (Tampa Bay Derby, Wood Memorial, Pegasus, and Haskell) is still a far cry from the eight won by Holy Bull in 1994, but the season is far from over. Add a win in the Travers, on the square against Orb and Palace Malice, and I will be the first to admit that Verrazano is well on his way to becoming only the 4th horse in the last 30 years to win an Eclipse Award without winning a single leg of the Triple Crown. 



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Older Comments about Anatomy of the Three-Year-Old Champion...

Why is everyone in such a rush to judge not only the 3 yo crop ,but all other horses off of poor performances.It is unfair,yes the easy thing to do is say the distance or this or that.In this years 3yo crop,over the entire body of work.The 5 top 3yos' were Orb,Oxbow,Palace Malice, Verrazano and WTC. What is wrong with being mentioned in that class.No this years 3yos' were not overrated.They were very good,the proof is that not 1 was able to stand out for the entire long haul.The reason was,because of how good the others were.Many factors went into it,starting with health for example.Another is the timing.I personally hate the popularity awards,but if i were forced to select.It would be WTC, because as proven with the princess.This game has turned into the "what have you done for me lately". Amnesia sure catches up with many at this stage.For example,i am reading that Sectret Circle should win the Eclipse Sprinter.Why i ask??? Because on the day he won the Cup he was wired to the max. Then why even consider any other race run during the year,we are rendering them irrelavent.So change the format of the Breeders Cup,to what John Nerud just stated in an interview. Make it the world championship of racing.Whoever wins their respective races,should be Crowned division Champion.After all,indirectly that is what is being done.But please enough already with the 3 yo crop.At one time or another,they were all worthy of being considered the Champion of the Division.For me,that is good enough.
  • https://www.facebook.com/kyndle.fischer · You could make a case for the 3yo crop being "overrated" based on their inconsistency. Look at the 5 top 3yos, not a single one of them was consistent. Every one of them threw in multiple off the board finishes. Orb is done, Verrazano is done, Oxbow is done, palice malice can't hang and WTC is the only one earns respect and should prove an outstanding horse, if he can stay sound with all this pounding hes taking.. This was a textbook overrated crop. · 1440 days ago
Silentio almost got dad some pub.
Silent Name By Sunday Silence Out of a Danehill mare Danzigaway. 7 stakes winners from 18 Stakes starters. IF ANYONE wants toread up on him......http://www.adenastallions.com/stallions/Silent_Name/
Silent Name is turning into a solid stallion. You will hear more about that one standing at Adena Ontario in the coming years.
I was simply attaching a name to your claim... I am not sure why you are acting up
Alread is one here that is coveted. Silent something or other
The support for the Sunday Silence bloodlines in the US will come once the sires standing here prove their worth. Not every son of his will be successful -- and so, US/Can breeders (rightly or wrongly) have taken a measured approach.
I know we do. I said we do. Silent Name is right across the border too. I also mentioned that they were largely ignored.
We still have them in the very nice stallion Hat Trick who no one seems to value
zX- I used to think so. I was so mad when he was sold. I now see it was the best decision ever. I don't think he would have ever had the chance to be a top sire, had he stayed in the U.S. The Japanese had a plan, and it paid out big time. We have some of his bloodlines here for the US to use, and yet they are by and large still very much ignored.
EP, Sunday Silence bloodlines are awesome. It was a bad decision by US breeders to let that one go...
Japanese are smart. They bring over Sunday Silence and from there you get his offspring who are top shelf sires in their own right like Deep Impact and Stay Gold who then pass on their genes to their offspring. Man oh man to have that Sunday silence line over here....aside fromStay Gold and Deep Impact, their progeny like Nakyama Festa, Deep Brillante, Orfevre, Gold Ship , Kizuna as present and future stallions. To carry on the name. Just incredible. One sire did all this who was Bred, foaled and raced in the USA. But the American Breeders FLOCK to Tapit, has he produced ANYTHING that can mirror Sunday Silence......CLASSIC winning Sunday silence.
AK is standing at Jonabell for our season.
I'll Have Another was sent to Japan, Animal Kingdom was going to Australia only before his success at a mile on the turf. In my opinion breeders are turning away from classic distance, just look at the popularity of horses like Verrazano and other miler types. And I agree with you, when the Derby or any classic distance race is irrelevant to breeding you can at least kiss the sport as I know it goodbye, but I am afriad that is happening today.
Mike ,not important.When the Derby becomes irrelavent,you can kiss this game goodbye.That is the only race Breeders hopes hang on.To win the Derby.Not the Preakness,the Belmont or any other race.The only time the Belmont is relavent ,is if there is a triple crown possibility.
I am not sure that the Derby is so important to breeders today, with the emphysis on speed and early development, the Breeders Cup Juvenile might be more important to breeders. Everyone wants to win the Derby but many breeders have abandoned the classic horses. Not a good thing in my opinion.
I agree about the ~5 good 3y/o colts, but that is what prompted my use of the word "strange"; most of the time there's not much doubt about dominance. I find it very interesting that Pletcher is now saying Verrazano may go to the Cigar Mile; and, BTW, Graydar is "iffy".
It has been a great year for 3 yos'. Unfortunately,injuries have shelved some of the good ones.But all in all,the depth of the talent at the top is as competetive as i've seen it in recent years.Other years,there are 1 or 2 dominant colts,then there is a drop off.I certainly would not take a stab at naming an Eclipse 3yo I've been saying that thereare 5 of them as good or within a very small margin as good as any.After giving it some thought,at first i thought that WTC should get it.But in retrospect,in what i agree is a topsy turvy year.The winner should be ORB. Since all of the ontenders have basically won 1 major race each.ORB won in my opinion in my opinion,the only 3yo race that matters to anyone.That is the Kentucky Derby. From a victorious perspective,it is irrelevant as to the track condition.Since he won that race.He would be the most deserving of all.To be honest,if you took a private poll amongst all the owners and trainers of the top 3yos,and asked them if they would switch resumes(total purses aside) i would be shocked if it was not a unanimous "YES " Because when they are ready for the Breeding shed.A Derby winner demands and gets much more attention than any other race run in America.
Yes, Tom, it's pretty smart if he enters and wins the Cigar Mile. (Which is what Grening quotes Pletcher as saying.) Such a win would be at Orb's expense if he's still going as well. This is a strange year for 3y/o colts.
If true,and i hope it is.Very smart buisiness decision. Not that he can earn "X" amount more on the track.Just needs to gain momentum and a buzz for his next career.2 non competetive loses(for whatever the reason) will not have breeders knocking down his door.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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