Aug 02, 2013
By: JOE GIRARDI
The second half of the three year old season got underway this past weekend when Saratoga hosted the Grade II Jim Dandy and Monmouth Park host the Grade I Haskell stakes.
On Saturday July 27th the Jim Dandy attracted a field of nine horses. A Grade II stakes race run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $600,000. The favorite in the race was Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice who was making his first start since the Belmont. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Palace Malice and jockey Mike Smith came out running in good order and stalked the leader Moreno through reasonable fractions of 24, 47:2, 1:11. As they moved into the lane Palace Malice took over the lead and kicked on well through the lane to score by a length in a solid final time of 1:47:1. Will Take Charge closed well to finish second at 17-1 with Moreno checking in a clear third at 7-1 while Bashaar checked in fourth at 23-1. Second choice in the race and Preakness third place finisher Mylute never really lifted a hoof checking in 8th at 5-2 under jockey Rosie Napravnik.
Run a race earlier was the Grade I Diana Stakes, run over the turf at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $600,000. There was a field of five that went postward after Dayatthespa was scratched the morning of the race. Laughing came out of the gate running and established the early lead with Centre Court, the 6-5 favorite sitting in second early on through moderate fractions of 24:1, 49 flat. As the field continued on down the backstretch and around the far turn those positions remained unchanged. Moving into the lane Centre Court who is as consistent as they come didn’t fire and tired to finish last of five while Laughing dug in. Coming to the wire Laughing and jockey Jose Lezcano hung in there by a head over Dream Peace who checked in second by a half-length over second choice Stephanie’s Kitten in a solid final time of 1:47:1.
On Sunday July 28th at Monmouth they hosted their highlight of the season with the Grade I Haskell Stakes. A field of seven went postward in the Haskell with Verrazano going off as the even money favorite. Verrazano was highly touted from the start of his career and won his first four races before failing in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track checking in 14th. He came out of that race with a cut on his leg which took some time to heal but he came back nicely to score by more than nine lengths in the Pegasus Stakes, a prep race for the Haskell over this track back in mid June. That was the race that Itsmyluckyday pulled up so there were some experts who still had their doubts about Verrazano. As the gates broke, Oxbow, the Preakness winner and the second place finisher in the Belmont was sent right to the lead as the 3-1 second choice. Verrazano, who broke from post 7 got a good spot in second behind moderate fractions of 23:4, 48:1, 1:12:2. As they moved around the far turn, Verrazano made a quick move to take over the lead as the third choice, Power Broker moved up as well. Into the lane, Verrazano and jockey John Velazquez took off and drew away to a dominating 9 and ¾ lengths score over Power Broker who was six lengths clear of the show finisher Micromanage, who was a nose in front of Oxbow. The final time of the race was 1:50:3, not on the fast side but the track was playing to the slow side all day. With that win Verrazano has vaulted himself right back into the top three year old picture and it looks like he might have a date against Palace Malice in the Grade I Travers Stakes with a $1 million dollar purse at Saratoga on August 24th. There was some unfortunate news coming from the Haskell as Oxbow, according to his trainer D. Wayne Lukas, came out of the Haskell with a wrenched ankle which will put his status for the Travers in doubt.
The Travers is known as the Mid-Summer Derby and it will go a long way to determining which three year old will be at the top of the list with less than half of the year remaining. In addition to Verrazano and Palace Malice, Kentucky Derby winner, Orb is also expected to run in what should be an amazing race.
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