A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:
It’s hard to believe Verb required seven starts to break his maiden. Trained by Keith Desormeaux for Calumet Farm, Verb dead-heated for third in his debut at Santa Anita on May 19, 2019, beaten only by future stakes winners Fore Left and Phantom Boss.
It seemed as though a maiden victory would be just around the corner, but unfortunately for Verb, he continued to knock heads with above-average competition. In his second start, he finished third again while beaten just a half-length by future graded stakes winners By Your Side and Basin. Then in the Bashford Manor (G3), Verb set the pace before coming home third behind Phantom Boss and yet another future stakes winner, Rowdy Yates.
After spending seven months on the sidelines, Verb’s frustrations continued with three more in-the-money efforts at Fair Grounds before breaking through with a victory at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, one year and four days after his debut, Verb tracked fractions of :22.72 and :45.62 in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint before forging to the front and holding off a late challenge to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:16.61.
Having tasted success for the first time, perhaps this Triple Crown nominee will turn a corner and build on the potential he’s shown all along. But the bigger question is whether Verb has the stamina to handle classic distances; as a son of Dialed In out of the Include mare Pajama Bottom, Verb’s pedigree is arguably geared toward sprints and miles more than routes.
It’s safe to say Well Connected was much the best in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Bettors disregarded the son of Distorted Humor at 7-1 in the wagering, likely because his past performances contained nothing more than a modest third-place finish at Gulfstream on Nov. 30. But the layoff proved to be no obstacle for Well Connected, who fired a huge shot in his second start and sophomore debut.
With Edgard Zayas in the saddle for trainer Mike Maker, Well Connected was quick into stride, pressing fractions of :23.03 and :46.20 while racing outside rivals. Then, as the field approached the homestretch, Well Connected took command from odds-on favorite Ima Pharoah and pulled away with authority, blasting the third quarter-mile in :23.44 and the final sixteenth in :06.43 to dominate by five lengths in 1:16.07.
Produced by the Birdstone mare Bev’s Summer Song, Well Connected is owned by Michael Dubb and David Simon. Though he’s shown promise sprinting, Well Connected’s pedigree suggests longer distances won’t be an issue, making him an intriguing newcomer with possible Road to the Kentucky Derby aspirations.
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