Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A Bridge (and horse) to Remember
So Verrazano, Master of Nine Furlongs, turned in what was dubbed a “bullet” workout as he readies for the Dirt Mile.
The time was only 1:01.08 and was called a “bullet.” 1:01 seems slow to be dubbed a bullet, but it was the fastest of 14 works, so I suppose it’s all relative. After explosive wins at Monmouth in the Pegasus and Haskell, he was handed a win in the Travers. But, as some people thought, 10 furlongs was always too much for this son of More Than Ready. Fail.
Verrazano, if he sticks around for another year, could be similar in running style and fan fare to Shackleford. Shackleford was able to win, in dramatic fashion, a race of considerable distance in the Preakness. But after that he was relegated to sprints and miles, right in his wheelhouse. Verrazano could be that.
Verrazano is a bear. Watching his race in the Wood, he looms a dark shadow before overcoming and overmatching this field.
Shackleford had charisma, a big, white blaze, and a gutsy head-lunging running style that gives him the added look of a horse running his heart out. There was a lot of Rocky in Shack. He was also trained by Dale Romans, a trainer who is more cuddly than Todd Pletcher.
It’s not Pletcher’s style to let people get acquainted with his horses the way others do. Perhaps that has more to do with the fact that after their three-year-old year they’re gone.
Shackleford had groupies. Verrazano can only hope to avoid Groupie Doll.
There’s no reason why Verrazano can’t become an iconic horse to watch, except for retirement. He’s already a proven multiple Grade 1 winner at two turns and a millionaire. Verrazano could be as exciting to watch as Wise Dan, Groupie Doll and Fabulous Strike (maybe the greatest front-end sprinter of all time).
Pletcher horses are more like Nazgul horses. They don’t seem huggable. They appear to carry Ring Wraiths. That’s likely by design. When was the last Fan Favorite Pletcher Horse? Rags to Riches? And that was only because she was a filly who ran just one more time after she defeated Curlin the 2007 Belmont Stakes. That’s as close as we got to a cuddly Pletcher horse. But that’s how he rolls.
English Channel might have had a chance, but he was a turf router, maybe the only thing less popular than a turf miler. I’d love to be able to see the age breakdown (poor word choice?) of Pletcher’s horses. Every other sport, especially baseball, has stats for everything. WHIP, anyone?
Horse racing has great handicapping data, but would it be nice to see at a glance who a trainer performs with two-year-olds, three-year-olds, and four-year-olds? I’d love to know how many of each age each trainer has. It's like a following a football coach and not knowing his full roster.
I’d like to see how a trainer performs with older horses, a testament to keeping horses sound and healthy for more than just a flash in the pan.
My point is, Verrazano could be an exciting animal to watch race for six or seven times next year. He could be a top sprinter and the type of industry horse that would please the people already wedded to this game. Just like Curlin. Just like Shack.
But, like many Pletcher horses, they’re gone after three. That’s no knock on him. His brand is two- and three-year-olds. Hopefully we see more of Verrazano and he doesn’t become a forgotten bridge like these from The Dark Knight Rises (minute 2:30).