Verrazano looks one to follow for rest of the season

Here’s a horse to follow for the rest of the season, Aidan O’Brien’s American import, Verrazano.

Verrazano looks one to follow for rest of the season

At Royal Ascot on Tuesday, he was beaten three parts of a length into second by Richard Hannon’s hot-pot, Toronado, in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.

Toronado was making his seasonal debut, whereas Verrazano had a run under his belt, so logic should dictate that there is no way the placings will be reversed next time.

But I’m not so sure and will have no hesitation siding with Verrazano, if and when they meet again.

Of course Toronado is entitled to come on plenty for the outing and is likely to do so.

But, to my eyes, Verrazano shaped like a horse with any amount of potential and, if we’re wrong, it’s going to cost us.

He won six times in his native country, before making his debut in these islands when a promising third behind Olympic Glory and Tullius in the Lockinge at Newbury.

All the word about Verrazano, leading into Ascot, was that his preparation had been far from ideal and that was certainly reflected in his travels in the market.

He was essentially friendless, a big drifter and allowed to leave the gate at an unthinkable 6-1.

Watching the race, you never felt he was going to deliver, but there was so much to admire in the way the four-year-old stuck to his task in the closing stages.

Verrazano didn’t half buckle down through the final two furlongs and kept Toronado honest all the way to the line.

When he was third at Newbury, O’Brien’s colt was a length and three quarters adrift of the second horse, Tullius.

At Ascot, he had Tullius, on the same terms as Newbury, a length and three quarters behind in fourth place.

That already signalled a fair bit of improvement and do not be surprised if there is a lot more to come.

Another O’Brien horse to very much take out of Ascot is Magician, who was runner-up behind The Fugue in Wednesday’s Group 1 Prince Of Wales’ Stakes.

The Fugue was a quite brilliant winner of the race, but, like Verrazano, there was a lot to like about Magician.

After all, this was as good a ten-furlong race as you will get.

We will want to be with him more often than not for the rest of the campaign, and won’t be deterred if O’Brien chooses to step him up to a mile and a half.

One of the more puzzling aspects of flat racing is the fact that Pat Smullen has yet to make the breakthrough as a truly international rider.

I know he has enjoyed some success outside of Ireland, but nowhere near as much as his talents deserve.

At this stage of the game you might have expected him to be spoken about in the same breath as Kinane and Murtagh, but it has never quite happened.

It is not too late, however, and one of the best jockeys this country has ever produced could yet hit the real big time.

Smullen basically has it all. He keeps it simple, rarely makes a mistake and is powerful in a finish.

At Ascot on Wednesday he showcased his talents with a double aboard Mustajeeb and Anthem Alexander. Both rides were typically Smullen, uncomplicated.

It was sobering, though, to discover that, prior to this, he had only previously ridden four Royal Ascot winners.

Quite frankly, it’s a total that is miles below what it should be.

There is hardly a day goes by that Channel 4 doesn’t get pilloried for its coverage of racing.

I rarely watch the game on Channel 4, preferring instead to stick to the dedicated channels in At The Races and Racing UK. But got the chance this week to tune into a fair bit of their Royal Ascot coverage and wondered what all the fuss is about.

Obviously, at least a little, one would miss the humour of Francome and the eccentricity of McCririck, but such is life and their absence is really no big deal.

What I saw on Channel 4 was extraordinary professionalism and a slick programme that did racing proud.

Imagine, they showed every race every day of Royal Ascot on terrestrial television, which is nothing short of amazing.

I’ll guarantee that by the time the many hours of marathon broadcasting had been completed each evening that all those involved were ready for one thing - bed.

Essentially, Channel 4 is providing racing with a massive service and why they continually get seven bells kicked out of them is difficult to fathom.

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