With two major events in Horse Racing this weekend, the Jim Dandy on Saturday and the 2013 Haskell Invitational, which will featured the return of the talented Verrazano and 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow, at Monmouth Park on Sunday, I figured it’d be best if I split them up into two parts this way it’s not information overload by trying to put two key races, several other keys races around the country and news and notes all in one article…I hope it works out better for you.
Like I try to do with all the big races, I will be looking at each horse individually while looking at the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly. Remember, I broke down this race in Post Position order and you’ll see my final selections just below the last horse (which in this case is Verrazano).
Monmouth Park – Sunday, July 28, 2013
Race 13 – 6:20 PM
William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (Grade I)
One And One Eighth Miles.
R R Rodriguez
Pick of the Litter (15-1)
J L Castanon
D L Romans
Golden Soul (8-1)
Power Broker (3-1)
G L Stevens
D W Lukas
T A Pletcher
J R Velazquez
T A Pletcher
Analysis: (In Post Position Order)
PP#1- Vyjack- at this writing, I’m not sure if this good looking gelding is going to start here or in the Jim Dandy on Saturday.
Either way, he’s going to need a serious form reversal to be competitive.
After coming from behind and winning his first four starts in New York, he was abysmal in the Kentucky Derby (finishing next to last, basically pulled up and beaten over 52 lengths.). I was willing excuse that being the track was new to him, along with the 120,000 or so screaming fans and that fact he had a lung infection just a few weeks before the Derby.
He had his chance at redemption in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park which just so happens to be his home track, but unfortunately he could do no better than 8th and was beaten 10 lengths by the winner (Palace Malice).
So which Vyjack shows up Sunday (or Saturday for the matter)? The monster we saw over the winter? Or the one we saw struggling down the stretch of the Belmont Stakes? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle….I don’t expect him to win, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that sizzling five furlong work at Saratoga on July 16 (5F-1:00), which could be signaling a return to form or a start of a return to form
PP#2- Pick of the Litter- not only looks totally outgunned to me, but he’ll be running in the Haskell, an elite race for three year olds, off a 97 day layoff. Wow…that a brazen move by his connections….especially for a horse with just four lifetime starts and just one win (a maiden win) to his credit.
“He had a strained gluteal muscle so we had to give him time; he never missed training but we had to back off of him,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s come along well. It’s either an ‘(allowance) other than’ or the Haskell, and there’s a lot of money in the Haskell. It’s a short field and he’s been training so well in the past few weeks, so I thought why waste the opportunity? He’ll come down Saturday from Saratoga and I’ll be there. I love Haskell day, I think it’s one of the best days we have in summer racing.”
Is it me or does it sound like Mr. Romans, who will be training one of the horses I partially own shortly, is just “along for the ride” sort of speak?…..easy throw out for me….next.
PP#3- Golden Soul- hmmmm… It’s starting to look like that enormous second place finish (at almost 35-1 odds) in the Kentucky Derby was a “one hit wonder” to me.
I mean, yes, he ran ok in the races leading up to that (close up 6th in the Risen Star Stakes and a fast closing 4th in the Louisiana Derby), but facts still remain that he “mailed it in” in the Belmont Stakes (9th, beaten almost 11 lengths) and he is still just 1 for 7 in his career.
“He’s pretty much a come-from-behind horse, so I don’t think the post position (#3) is a factor,” said trainer Dallas Stewart, “He should be okay. At Monmouth it’s kind of a speed-favoring type racetrack as everybody knows, so I wouldn’t want to be more than seven to 10 lengths back, somewhere in there”.
“His worktab has been solid, his weight has been solid, everything looks good. He looks great, like he’s ready to run a big race. Just the way he looks, I’m very happy with him. He wasn’t even 3 when he ran in the Derby, he’s a May 14 foal, so with age he should be getting better.”…Good point Mr. Stewart, but he’s going to have to get a lot better, a lot faster to win this.
PP# 4 Power Broker- after giving this colt by Pulpit five months off in order to “fill out and grow up” it appears trainer Bob Baffert has him back on track (no pun intended) as he’s now won his last two races convincingly. (an allowance race at Churchill Downs by 2 ½ lengths and the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont by almost 4).
“The horse worked really well the other day,” said Baffert, (five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 on July 23 at Del Mar). “I know it’s going to be a tough race, Verrazano and Oxbow have already proven they’re really nice 3-year-olds, so hopefully we’ll be able to run with them. I think this horse, the way he’s been training, deserves a chance. I don’t know how good he is but we’re going to get a good gauge here of how good he really is.”
”He has speed and I’m sure he’ll be up there close (to the early pace) with those horses,” Baffert said who will be shooting for his fourth straight win in the Haskell and his seventh overall. “I’ll let (jockey) Rosie (Napravnik) ride her race. She knows the horse really well; she knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. We could have easily gone to West Virginia (for the West Virginia Derby Aug. 3) but the way he worked the other day, if he could run first or second it would be worth the trip.”…agreed Mr. Baffert and a first, second or third place finish is well within the realm of possibility from what I can see.
PP#5- Oxbow- poor Oxbow, he gets no respect….he runs a quietly huge race in the Kentucky Derby (he was right behind Palace Malice thru those blistering early fractions and yet still held well to be 6th), he wins (steals) the Preakness and then runs his lungs out to be second in the Belmont Stakes yet he isn’t the morning line favorite here?
I agree with trainer D Wayne Lukas’ comments about this horse when he said several weeks ago “he may not be the fastest horse in his generation, but he is the toughest”…that’s true….this is one gritty horse, but will that be enough? Remember, this horse, even with good performances in all three Triple Crown races, is still just 3 for 12 in his career.
“The post position (#5) for Oxbow, sort of like his racetrack (surface), hasn’t really seemed to matter other than in the Arkansas Derby,” Stevens said. “I had it in my mind in that race that we were going to try to rate him and that was a bad decision, it didn’t play out well. This horse is one-dimensional in that he tries every time and carries good speed. I’ll just try to let the race play out as it may…but we’ll be up there close, that’s just his style.
“There’s a lot on the line on Sunday for the horse and all involved, so I’m looking for a big effort”. So am I, Mr. Stephens…
PP#6- Micromanage- I’ll tell you, this horse had the quintessential perfect prep race for the Haskell while coming from well behind to win going away (by 4 ½ lengths) in the Long Brach Stakes over this surface about three weeks ago…..I mean, that race should set him up perfectly for this one.
If you look three races back in his past performances, you’ll see another win over the Monmouth surface (he is 2 for 2 over it) so we know he likes the track.
The problem I’m seeing is that the race sandwiched in between those two wins was a well beaten second to Power Broker at BelmontPark. I kind of have mixed feelings about him, he’s unbeaten over the track, yet he faces Power Broker again.
PP#7- Verrazano- is a winner of five of six in his career and would win this race hands down if it were a beauty contest, but since it isn’t, let’s look a little further.
He won his first four races impressively then, after showing some early speed, he absolutely flopped in the Kentucky Derby. I’m not sure if it was the distance, the quirky Churchill Downs surface, the muddy track that day or a combination of all three but anyway you slice it, he picked a bad time to have a bad day.
Trainer Todd Pletcher then backs off of him by skipping the other two Triple Crown races to freshen him up a bit….good move.
After almost six weeks off, Pletcher enters him in a prep race (the Pegasus Stakes) and what does he do? He bounces back to his old self by making every pole a winning one and wallops the field…he won by almost 10 lengths but let me tell you, if his rider (John Velasquez) wanted to, he could have won by 15 lengths or more I’m sure.
Now I know his main competition (Itsmyluckyday) was injured and pulled up that day, and yes, Verrazano got off with and a couple of easy early fractions but truth be told, it was still a very impressive race. He ran the 1 1/16ths miles in solid 1:41.3, again, with Velazquez like a statute in the saddle.
“We’ve kind of circled this race, used the Pegasus to get here, and everything’s gone smoothly,” said Bryan Sullivan of Let’s Go Stable who own the colt. “The Pegasus worked out great…he really liked the track a lot so if he can duplicate that kind of race I think we’ll be in good shape on Sunday.”
Agreed Mr. Sullivan, if this colt by More Than Ready, and half brother to El Padrino, runs anything close to that Pegasus race….he’ll be long gone again.
2) Power Broker
Record: 12-36 = 33%
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** 2013 Breeders Cup Classic winner and dominant winner of the recent Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, Fort Larned, breezed five furlongs over Saratoga’s main track in 1:01 flat this past Tuesday morning to prepare for his next start in the Aug. 3 Whitney Handicap.
The Whitney, like always, is shaping up to be quite competitive as also expected to run are Mucho Macho Man, who finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ron the Greek, Cross Traffic, Alpha and Successful Dan.
Fort Larned is getting cranked up for the Whitney Handicap next weekend
***** Eblouissante, half sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, came out of her last place finish in the Shuvee Handicap last week with minor injuries after acting up in the starting gate, trainer John Shirreffs reported the morning after the race.
“She got banged up, but it’s all pretty superficial,” Shirreffs said “She broke two teeth and grabbed herself in a couple spots on her legs, but nothing really serious.
“I feel really lucky that she didn’t seriously injure herself. I think that’s a credit to the assistant starter who kept her from flipping over and getting underneath the gate. It was a bad situation but not a tragedy.”
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Eblouissante bumped with Moon Philly after leaving the gate and never threatened….The defeat was her first in three starts.
“For her, it was (over at the start). She lost all her focus and everything,” Shirreffs said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing, but it’s one of those things that happens with horses. You can’t always predict the outcome or what they’re going to do. You just accept it and try to improve.”
Shirreffs said Eblouissante, “is a big horse and the gate is somewhat tight, so she could be a little claustrophobic, Who knows what sets a horse off at that moment? Whatever it was, it really set her off”.
“We’ll give her a few days to heal up a little bit. Obviously, we’re going to have to take her to the gate and school her, spend a lot of time in the gate, and get over whatever it was that set her off. Then we’ll just come back and start over again.”
Shirreffs hopes to get another start for Eblouissante at Saratoga, where the trainer is spending his first full summer this year.
“We’ll look to bring her back probably in a little lower-profile race,” he said. “It’s hard to say until we get her back on the track.”
While on the subject of Eblouissante, to the lady who wrote the email saying this filly is a full sister to Zenyatta, I’m sorry ma’am, I know it doesn’t happen very often but I am right ….she is indeed a half sister, but thanks for the email anyway. I always appreciate comments…good, bad or indifferent.
Eblouissante came out of the Shuvee a little banged up
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