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Features - RACING

Verrazano made easy work of the field in the Haskell Invitational on Sunday (Photo courtesy Penelope Miller/America's Best Racing)

By Bob Ehalt, America's Best Racing

Verrazano was not bred in New Jersey.

A fashionably bred son of More Than Ready, he hails from Kentucky, even though his name evokes memories of the sailor who has a bridge in New York City named after him.

Yet there’s no getting past the bond between New Jersey and Verrazano that was forever sealed through the 3-year-old colt’s smashing victory in Sunday’s $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

In romping to the most lopsided victory in the 46-year history of the Haskell, Verrazano ran not only for a pair of Jersey natives – and the 100 or so of their friends on hand at the Oceanport, N.J., track – but for the state as well.

While resurfacing in the chase for the 3-year-old championship, Verrazano also reminded a nation of the plight still facing residents of the Jersey Shore whose lives were destroyed by Hurricane Sunday. A portion of Verrazano’s purse money from the Haskell will be donated to SavetheJerseyshore.org in a move that might have the most profound impact of all from Sunday’s race.

“We’re donating 1.5 percent of the ($600,000 winning) purse to SavetheJerseyshore.com and we’ll probably give more than that,” said Bryan Sullivan, a part owner of Verrazano.  “Our goal, though, was to put the fund back in the limelight by winning a race like this, and we’re all very happy we could contribute.”

For Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio, who comprise Let’s Go Stable, it was only natural they would be willing to help in New Jersey’s recovery effort. Part owners of Verrazano along with Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, the Let’s Go team has Jersey blood up and down its pedigree.

Scatuorchio, who lives in Red Bank, N.J., grew up in West Long Branch, N.J., and worked at Monmouth Park during the summer when he was in high school. Sullivan still lives in his native Rumson, N.J., and his first date with his future wife – who just so happens to be Scatuorchio’s sister, Courtney – took place at Monmouth Park as he watched his future father-in-law Jim Scatuorchio’s horse, Tale of the Cat, finish fourth in the 1997 Haskell.

“I grew up knowing the Triple Crown and the Haskell,” Kevin Scatuorchio said. “The Haskell is the race everyone I know talks about and comes out to see. For me it’s the Moon. It may not be a Triple Crown race or a Breeders’ Cup race, but to win this race is something that will never leave me.”

It’s hard to envision the 2013 Haskell leaving anyone’s memory all that quickly as Verrazano pulled away to a 9 ¾-length victory that eclipsed the race’s previous gold standard for lopsided finishes, Bluegrass Cat’s 7-length triumph in 2006.

“(Verrazano) made a huge statement today. That was one of if not the most impressive performance by a 3-year-old this year, and I can’t think of too many 3-year-olds who have ever run like that,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, a five-time recipient of the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer who also trained Bluegrass Cat.

Next for Verrazano should be the Travers, where he’ll meet up with another of Pletcher’s horses, Dogwood Stable’s Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, who won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Saturday. Kentucky Derby winner Orb may also be there for the Aug. 24 Mid-Summer Derby at the Spa, and there’s a strong possibility the race could crown the 3-year-old champion.

Verrazano, who has six wins in seven career starts, certainly is prominent in that race for an Eclipse Award. He owns Grade 1 wins in the Haskell and Wood Memorial, and his lone defeat was a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby on a wet track he did not relish.

Yet win or lose down the road at the Spa, the lasting impression to emerge from the Haskell is that there’s a title Verrazano will retain for many years to come.

He will always be New Jersey’s horse.

For an Equibase chart, click here.


Haskell Inside

Photo courtesy Monmouth Park

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