Verrazano Slight 9-5 Favorite in Haskell

A Hall of Fame cast promises a spectacular show at Monmouth Park on Sunday, when seven 3-year-olds contest the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (G1), traditional centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer meeting.

Verrazano, an impressive winner of the Pegasus Stakes (G3) here last out, drew the outside Post 7 and was installed the slight 9-5 favorite by Monmouth oddsmaker Brad Thomas. Oxbow, winner of the Preakness Stakes and second in the Belmont Stakes, goes from Post 5 and is the 2-1 second choice.

Trainer Bob Baffert will go for an unprecedented seventh Haskell victory – and fourth in a row – with Power Broker, who drew Post 4 and is third betting choice at 3-1.

The others entered in Sunday’s 46th running of the mile and an eighth Haskell are Golden Soul, second in the Kentucky Derby, Post 3, Robby Albarado, 8-1; Micromanage, winner of the Long Branch at Monmouth in his last start, Post 6, Joe Bravo, 6-1; Vyjack, a  multiple stakes winner earlier this year, Post 1, Paco Lopez, 12-1; and, Pick of the Litter, who exits a third place finish in the Lexington Stakes on April 20, Post 2, Jesus Castanon, 15-1.

This year’s Haskell has a Hall of Fame glow, with two of the trainers and two of the riders members of racing’s shrine in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 

D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Oxbow, joined the Hall of Fame in 2007. Lukas will be looking for his second Haskell victory. He saddled Serena’s Song to victory in the 1995 running, and that champion filly is also in racing’s Hall of Fame.   

Oxbow will be ridden Sunday by Gary Stevens, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1997. Stevens, who is making a comeback this year after retiring from racing in 2005, rode Horse of the Year Point Given to a Haskell victory in 2001, and was also the rider of Serena’s Song. 

Bob Baffert, who entered the Hall in 2009, has his 11th Haskell starter in Power Broker. The trainer has won Monmouth’s greatest race six times – Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), Lookin at Lucky (2010), Coil (2011) and Paynter (2012).

Verrazano, trained by Lukas protégé and future Hall of Famer (when he hits the 20-year mark) Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by John Velazquez, a 2012 Hall inductee, who won his first Haskell in 2006 aboard Bluegrass Cat for Pletcher. 

Verrazano was made the Haskell favorite off his tremendous performance in the Pegasus Stakes here on June 16, when he drew off to win by more than nine lengths for his fifth lifetime win in six starts. The only blemish on the colt’s record was his disappointing 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Bryan Sullivan, a partner in Let’s Go Stable, which owns Verrazano in partnership with Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, was on hand at Thursday’s draw and said the outside post was perfect for the More Than Ready colt. 

“We didn’t want to be down inside,” Sullivan said, “and we would have picked the outside post if we had a choice, so we’re happy.”

Sullivan, a Rumson, N.J., resident, said the Kentucky Derby was a lot to ask of a lightly raced colt. 

“We threw a lot at him in a short time this year,” he said. “He went from an unraced 2-year-old into the Derby, which is an incredibly tough race.

“But right after the Derby, we drew a circle around the Haskell as our goal, and we used the Pegasus Stakes to get here. That race showed us he likes this track a lot. If he can duplicate that race, we’ll be in good shape on Sunday.” 

Gary Stevens, who has ridden Oxbow in his last four starts, including the Preakness victory, said post position was not a concern for the colt.

“The post never seems to matter with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a one-dimensional horse who carries some good speed, and I just try to stay out of his way. 

“I’m looking for a big effort from him Sunday,” the rider said. “I talked to Wayne and he’s happy where the horse is right now.”

Baffert changed his mind several times before finally deciding to send Power Broker to Oceanport. 

“The horse is in the air right now, so there’s no turning back,” Baffert said from his base in Del Mar, Calif. “I was thinking about some other spots for him, but he worked so well the other day, that I changed my mind and sent him East.

“The Haskell is a very tough race, but I think he deserves a chance. We don’t know how good he is, but this will be a good gauge.” 

Baffert said that starting from the middle of the field will be fine, as long as Power Broker gets away cleanly.

“The break is very important,” Baffert said. “If he can break well and get a comfy spot, he’ll be up there with those speed horses.

 “Rosie (Napravnik) knows this horse really well, so I’ll let her ride her race.”Baffert said he’ll be watching the Haskell on television, instead of taking in the festive Haskell Day atmosphere and eating hotdogs from Max’s in Long Branch for luck.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “The fans love it, Monmouth is a beautiful facility, and the Haskell is always an exciting race. I told my assistant Jimmy (Barnes) that he’d better go to Max’s and eat two hotdogs for luck.” 

Golden Soul, who rallied from far back to be second at 34-1 in the Kentucky Derby, is trained by Dallas Stewart, another D. Wayne Lukas assistant who has gone on to a successful training career. Stewart said that given Monmouth’s reputation as a speed-favoring track, he expects his colt to stay in touch during the early going.

“I would expect him to be no more than seven to 10 lengths back early in the race,” Stewart said. “He can make his run from there.

“The horse looks right now like he’s on his game. I’m very happy with him coming into the Haskell.”

Joe Bravo, who won the Haskell aboard Lion Heart in 2004, said Micromanage showed in the Long Branch that he deserves a chance Sunday.  

“We got pushed far out on the clubhouse turn,” Bravo said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to the valet parking lot before. I thought our race was over, but at the three-eighths pole, he tells me, ‘Hey, jock, hang on and let’s go.’

“If he can duplicate that race, we’ll be in good shape Sunday.”









Rudy Rodriguez

Paco Lopez



Pick of the Litter

Dale Romans

Jesus Castanon



Golden Soul

Dallas Stewart

Robby Albarado



Power Broker

Bob Baffert

Rosie Napravnik




D. Wayne Lukas

Gary Stevens




Todd Pletcher

Joe Bravo




Todd Pletcher

John Velazquez






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Older Comments about Verrazano Slight 9-5 Favorite in Haskell...

I think way too many are putting way too much emphasis on a pace scenario that isn't going to materialize. None of these want to go blazing out of the gate like a fireball. Oxbow will set the early pace and Verrazano will track from his outside post just like he did in the Wood. Power Broker will sit comfortably in 3rd, and Vyjack and Pick of the Litter 4th and 5th. If Power Broker does decide to go, then that's going to be even better for Verrazano. Still plenty of time for the 3YO champ picture to change, and I believe the favorite for that award shifts this weekend.
If the track comes up wet...Golden Soul might have a shot or at least a strong say in the exotics...Oxbow and Golden Soul exacta and possibly Power Broker trifecta
All depends on who wants the lead and I'll bet that occurs by default
ALTHOUGH. the Jockey Club Gold Cup of 79 only had 4 and was a contest to remember.
pace will hardly matter in a 4 horse field...They just usually stare at one another then run like the devil late..UNDERWHELMING contest
How dare a baseball guy have any opinion on a horse... How dare he write he loves Verrazano... lol
Win Oxbow. Place Verrazano. Show. Power Broker
I love "publicity" horses. Some yokel who write for baseball all the time, hears a name, finds a hard luck story to paste over it, and BOOM, we have a favorite that does not deserve it. I FOR ONE. LOVE these idiot articles because it takes betting away from some of the more logical ones, that under unbiased conditions, would be just medcium priced, but NOW will be lucrative enough to consider wagering upon.
1. Power Broker 2. Verrazano 3. Oxbow. Power Broker has been one of my favorite horses for a long time. I think if Power Broker and Verrazano go out for the lead, Power Broker will be able to outkick Verrazano.
yes i was happy about the jockey change on Indy! happy to see him race this weekend.
I respect what local handicapper Jim Bannon told me way back before the Derby: "There is something physically not right about Verrazano. They way they babied him all winter in Florida told the tale."
I'm a big fan of Verrazano. I'll be all feverish if he doesn't win. I mean it. I'll be in a snit.
I've NEVER been a big fan of Verrazano, I've stated that for quite a long time. I think the Haskell will TRULY give us a clue about how good he really is. I'll give credit where credit is due.... IF he earns it. Otherwise, I'll remain a doubter... We'll see on Sunday. If he gets a slow pace and romps, I won't be impressed. Let's see him face REAL pace and SURVIVE a REAL pace duell.... Like Oxbow has... I was never a fan of Oxbow either, but his gutsy run in the Derby and the only front end horse surviving (as Sword said), his Preakness (I wasn't very impressed, he had it easy, and his Belmont... His Belmont made me LOVE Oxbow... He ran very well.... Let's see if Verrazano has that ability...
Agreed, Sword.
I'm not trying to defend or discredit Verrazano but in the Wood. Johnny said he had more in the tank and he didn't need more to win and that is why he put away the wipe. Now many might doubt him and some may agreed but I'm going to wait until Sunday to make bash or praise his ability to run. However, I must say he did impress me in all his race prior to the derby. The Derby was a toss for me but of the run away freight train name Palace Malice. Anyone that was close to that pace was cooked. With that being said, Oxbow impress the shit out of me in the Derby.
Sosotricksy, tmallios said you were calling me out about Princess of Sylmar. I said you were too classy to do that. He's not classy, as you said, my best advice is to try not to communicate with him. Best of luck in the Haskell, if you are betting it. I'll wait before giving my opinion, as I have not handicapped it yet.
I have been here all of a month, how on earth could you possibly know who I idolize? I don't put much stock into any 'expert' as I am pretty sure I have posted before. Way to resort to slander though, stay classy.
Oxbow and Power Broker
prior to the wood memorial,all experts who you probably idolize,said that the wood was the best pre derby field assembled. he beat them.but not good enough for an efficianado like dare he win a G1 and not do it impressively. i am surprised they did not drop him in class as you are now setting a new standard amongst race is not important if you is more important to be friend i will give you the last word.i am done with this discussion.
He lost once to a fast pace yes. but in the wood he really struggled, and had the race been even half a furlong longer he would have lost. He had every opportunity to win big in that race, and there just wasn't enough horse. SUre he can romp all over the lesser competition, but I just don't see him being up to par with the horses like oxbow, orb, PM.

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