While impressive, the numbers for Ciaran Dunne’s operation would have been even better were it not for the 23 juveniles bought back, among the leaders in that category.
Included in Wavertree’s 2019 buybacks was Independence Hall, a colt from the first crop of Constitution who took an important first step on the Road to the Kentucky Derby when he won the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack on New Year’s Day. Victory in the one-turn mile test was worth 10 points toward a starting berth in the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
Trained by Michael Trombetta, Independence Hall races for the partnership of Robert and Kathleen Verratti, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable and is undefeated in three starts.
Produced from the Cape Town mare Kalahari Cat, Independence Hall was consigned to The Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s March 2-year-olds in training sale at Gulfstream Park, on behalf of the Verrattis, who eventually bought him back after he failed to meet his reserve on a final bid of $200,000.
In the name of their Charlestown Investments, the Verrattis bought Independence Hall for $100,000 from breeder Woodford Thoroughbreds at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“He’s another one of our non-selling horses,” Dunne said with a deadpan tone following the Jerome. “It’s hard to imagine why the good ones don’t sell.”
A practical horseman, Dunne understood there was good reason why astute buyers were reluctant to go higher for the colt at the select sale near Miami, noting he had developed a shin issue at his farm workout before being shipped to Gulfstream Park.
“He got a lot of respect in Miami, but he had a shin (issue), which put some of the people off,” Dunne said. “You can see their point.”
Dunne said Wavertree personnel and potential buyers who visited the farm to inspect young horses before going to auction were struck by Independence Hall’s looks.
“We were very high on the horse,” Dunne said. “He created a good impression for a lot of people who came by the farm over the winter. He was a beautiful-moving horse. No matter who was there, when he galloped by, they would ask, ‘Who’s that?’ He got into a rhythm and repeated it and repeated it.”
Because the colt appeared predisposed to distances, the plan was to work him a quarter-mile in his presale breeze. As a result of the shin problem, however, Dunne had the colt breeze an eighth-mile, and he was clocked in :10 2/5.
“He went OK (in the under tack show breeze), but that wasn’t his thing,” Dunne said. “He just wasn’t a sprinter. When he stretched out, he was at his best.”
Racing initially only for the Verrattis, Independence Hall was victorious on debut in a maiden special weight event on the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby Day card at Parx Racing. That victory, in which the colt was timed in 1:24.45 for seven furlongs, led Eclipse Thoroughbreds’ Aron Wellman to attempt to contact the Verrattis about a possible partnership.