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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Coming Around (a bit) on Verrazano

An interesting and perhaps enlightening performance by Verrazano in winning the Wood.  For one thing, he didn't seem to have any issue with sitting second behind what was an extremely slow pace.  Consider that in the Gazelle, the only other two-turn dirt race of the day at Aqueduct, the front-running winner Close Hatches zipped her second quarter in 23.24 en route to a half in 47.47 and six furlongs in 1:10.95.  Verrazano and Johnny V. got to the latter call in 1:13.74 after observing Chrisandthecapper walk to the half in 49.62.

So, yeah, he had to work hard to hold off Vyjack in the stretch; but that talented gelding benefited from the slow pace as well, so I hardly see that as a demerit for the winner.  Despite Durkin's call, I don't think Verrazano was really asked until entering the stretch - the most energy Velazquez exerted before that point was looking over his shoulder to size up the competition - and he came home in a pretty quick 12.55; final three-eighths in 36.53.  And, for the second time in two weeks on the NBCSN telecast, Randy Moss expressed skepticism based on final time (1:50.27) by comparing it unfavorably with that of a prior filly race, without considering the widely differing pace scenarios.  And this guy is Mr. Pace Figures, c'mon, man!  That's just sloppy broadcasting.  Now you have a whole bunch of those new fans that America's Best Racing hopes is watching these telecasts who think that Orb and Verrazano ran lesser efforts than they really did.  (Though whether those types on the east coast are really tuned in to NBC's cable network between 6 and 7:30 PM on a Saturday evening remains to me seen.)

But don't worry, I'm not getting too soft on the Toddster's colt; will still bet against him in the Derby.  However it will be more because of value and my general principle of betting against the favorite in a race in which chance and circumstance have more to do with the outcome than talent than a sense that he's not really capable of winning.  Credit where due; Verrazano answered a couple of critical questions by rating kindly and prevailing in a battle against a good horse; and this was a race he should surely benefit from far more than another walk in the park.

Normandy Invasion closed fastest of all with a final furlong of 12.17, and will no doubt get a lot of attention for supposedly closing against the grain.  But he was surely close enough to benefit from the slow pace as well, and he walked his first quarter in 25.91.  So I think he has the potential of being this year's most overbet bandwagon closer.  Which isn't to say he can't win, just to say that he'll be a bad bet.

 - Not long after winning the aforementioned Gazelle with the aforementioned Close Hatches, Mott won the G1 Ashland at Keeneland with Emollient, coming back just one week after reeling some 30 lengths behind in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.  Either she really preferred the Poly, or maybe Dreaming of Julia did run the fastest thoroughbred race of all time!

I think I'll opt for the former, at least for now.  I've always felt as if the Keeneland track is the synthetic surface that plays the most like a grass course; and Emollient has some rich turf heritage in her pedigree.  By Empire Maker out of a Touch Gold mare, her second dam was a listed stakes winner in France, and her third dam, Coup de Genie, was a champion in that country as a juvenile; and under the latter you'll find horses such as Demebola (also a French juvenile champ), and the two-time Euro champion Bago, a five-time Group 1 winner, including the 2004 Arc.  So a filly with a 30 length loss in her last dirt race gets a spot in the Oaks for winning a race on Poly.  Makes sense, right?


ballyfager said...

My only Derby assumption as of now is that both Orb and Verrazano will be overbet.

Two things about Keeneland. The synthetic track was a hasty and perhaps foolish decision. Are they just going to let the track lapse into irrelevance?

The quaint custom of using uniform saddlecloth colors in their biggest races is downright silly.

Figless said...

I detest those uniform saddlecloth colors, best thing the BC has done in a decade was changing to the standard colors.

Agree re KEE as well. I am not interested one iota in the Blue Grass, at least not as a sporting event.

I was throwing out the Blue Grass winner for years prior to the change due to the unusual speed favoring surface that existed previously, but I used to at least look for a horse that may have closed against the grain on that surface, now I toss all the participants.