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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

Now unbeaten in four races, Verrazano made himself one of the chief favorites for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with his victory in the Wood Memorial over the Tapit colt Normandy Invasion.

Those two, along with Florida Derby winner Orb, Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, and a couple more who will be rising to the occasion in the next week or two, figure to make up the top half-dozen selections for the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.

Verrazano was bred in Kentucky by Emory Alexander Hamilton and raised at Helen Alexander’s Middlebrook Farm on Old Frankfort Pike, where Hamilton keeps all her mares.

Middlebrook is home to most of the broodmares from this family, descending from the French highweight and classic winner Monade, whom Robert J. Kleberg Jr. purchased and imported in the early 1960s. (For more on the history of this importation, see the previous column here.)

Much of the success of this line, including champion Queena, G1 winners Too Chic and Brahms, and other high-quality performers, has come from grafting classic-quality speed horses onto this robustly classic line. Among the sires used successfully with the Monade family have been Horse of the Year Dr. Fager, French classic winner Blushing Groom, and the great sires Mr. Prospector and Danzig.

The dam of Verrazano, Enchanted Rock (by Giant’s Causeway), was one of the exceptions to racing success in the family. She was unplaced in her only start, but she has begun her career the right way.

Both of the mare’s first two foals of racing age are graded stakes winners: G2 winner El Padrino (Pulpit) and now Verrazano.

Enchanted Rock’s 2-year-old is a filly by leading sire Tapit, and the mare has a yearling filly by Pulpit who is a full sister to El Padrino. On April 3, Enchanted Rock produced a chestnut colt by Pulpit, and the mare is booked to return to More Than Ready, the sire of Verrazano.

A 16-year-old son of the supreme South American sire Southern Halo, More Than Ready was a high-class 2-year-old in 1999, when he won four stakes while showing more speed and precocity than stamina. The colt returned the following season to win at the G1 level with a success in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga and also placed second in the G1 Blue Grass and G1 Vosburgh.

More Than Ready had better precocity and a higher turn of speed than most of this male line coming from the Hail to Reason stallion Halo through Southern Halo. More Than Ready also offered an outcross, but the stallion had to earn his way into the good graces of many breeders, as this line was not and still is not overly strong in North America.

In South America, Southern Halo and his sons get champion juveniles and 10-furlong classic winners, along with much of everything between. And in Australia, where More Than Ready began shuttling several years ago, the stallion has earned an even higher ranking among breeders than he enjoys in the States.

As evidence of this, the stallion’s stud fee of $121,000 ($Aus, including tax) in Australia is quite a bit higher than his Kentucky fee of $60,000 live foal.

More Than Ready earned his success with consistency and quality, and he has managed to show consistency, even though he entered stud in the era of over-large books. From more than 2,000 foals worldwide, the stallion has 118 stakes winners at present.

Verrazano is the 13th G1 winner for his sire, and given mares with scope and strength and more stamina in the family, More Than Ready is showing the capacity to get high-class performers across a variety of distances and surfaces in North American, and as his successes build, so do the quality of his mates.

When Enchanted Rock first went to More Than Ready, she was an unproven mare with a good family and potential. Now, she will be one of the stars of the stallion’s 2013 book, and some canny observers of racing form believe that the mating will look even better after the first Saturday in May.

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