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Blog - GAMBLING

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The Grade 1, $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes brings together a field of seven, led by Preakness winner Oxbow, last seen finishing second in the Belmont Stakes. Verrazano is one of many last out stakes winners who could threaten the possible favorite as he enters the Haskell off a powerful nine-length romp in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, giving him familiarity with the track that Oxbow lacks. Power Broker enters the race off a victory in the Easy Goer Stakes and may have what it takes to win, while Micromanagefinished second in the Easy Goer before a smart win on the track in the Long Branch Stakes just three weeks ago. Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul did not do much when running the Belmont and finishing ninth but should be running strongly in the last quarter of a mile, while Vyjack won both the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and Grade 2 Jerome Stakes earlier this year and attempts to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the Belmont. Pick of the Litter rounds out the field, last seen finishing third in the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes in April and perhaps a bit overmatched as he is still eligible for the first allowance level.

Oxbow has earned each of his three career wins leading from start to finish, and although he did finish second in the Belmont Stakes he pretty much ran in that position from start to finish, another sign of being a "need-the-lead" type. That being said, both Power Broker and Verrazano have shown the ability to sit behind the pacesetter and, if jockey Gary Stevens sends Oxbow from the start, he could control things on the front end just the way he did when upsetting the field in the Preakness. In the Preakness, Oxbow equaled a career best with a 110 Equibase Speed Figure, the same figure he earned when beaten a neck on the wire in the Rebel Stakes in March. Those 110 figure efforts are the best by any horse in this field, at any time, and so Oxbow appears the one to beat in this year's Haskell.

Micromanage is trained by North American leading trainer Todd Pletcher, as is Verrazano, with Micromanage likely to go to post at slightly higher odds. Micromanage has improved in three straight races since coming back from six months off in May, culminating with a career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure when victorious in the Long Branch Stakes three weeks ago at Monmouth. Jockey Joe Bravo is a perfect 2-for-2 aboard Micromanage and rides him in the Haskell. With a powerful half-mile workout coming into the race that was the best of 101 at the distance on the day at Saratoga ( in company with Verrazano), Micromanage may be capable of taking another step forward and winning a graded stakes for the first time in his career.

Verrazano won the first four starts of his career then finished a dismal 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Personally, I thought he wasn't fast enough to compete in the Derby, but two months after that poor effort Verrazano won the Pegasus Stakes by a wide, nine-length margin and with a career-best 109  Equibase Speed Figure. Having also put in that sharp four-furlong drill with Micromanage on July 22 and with jockey John Velazquez riding in the Haskell as he has in all six of Verrazano's wins to date, this colt would be no surprise if powering home just as he did last month on this track.

VERRAZANO WINNING WOOD MEMORIAL

Verrazano -Coglianese -Inside

Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA

The rest of the Haskell field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures): Golden Soul (104), Pick of the Litter (87), Power Broker (105) and Vyjack ( 108).

My Selections:

Oxbow

Micromanage

Verrazano

$1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational

Sunday, Monmouth Park, Race 13, 6:20 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

Odds

1

Vyjack

Paco Lopez

118

Rudy Rodriguez

12-1

2

Pick of the Litter

Jesus Castanon

118

Dale Romans

15-1

3

Golden Soul

Robby Albarado

118

Dallas Stewart

8-1

4

Power Broker

Rosie Napravnik

118

Bob Baffert

3-1

5

Oxbow

Gary Stevens

122

D. Wayne Lukas

2-1

6

Micromanage

Joe Bravo

118

Todd Pletcher

6-1

7

Verrazano

John Velazquez

120

Todd Pletcher

9-5

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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