Danny O’Brien is confident that the decision to geld Verstappen will result in positive black type results when the promising three-year-old returns to racing in the forthcoming Autumn Carnival.
Verstappen has made only four competitive appearances at the races since debuting in the early stages of the 2016 Spring Carnival and was returned to the paddock after failing to produce and eleventh in the Listed Hilton Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on November 5th.
O’Brien told Racing Victoria that the horse’s most recent performance made it clear that he was an ideal candidate for a gelding, and he believes that the procedure will produce a different Verstappen in 2017.
“It was an easy decision to geld him,” O’Brien said.
“When he ran last start he was very coltish on the day. He was very hard to saddle up.
“He had every hope in the run but his mind wasn’t on racing that day at all, he just didn’t apply himself.”
Verstappen appeared in line for a standout Spring Carnival preparation when he made his competitive debut for a dominant, near five length win in the Viatek Maiden Plate (1200m) at Pakenham on August 5th, but failed to keep his mind on the job after leading in the Listed McKenzie Stakes (1200m); fading to finish fifth of seven.
Lining up in the Highview Accounting Services BM64 (1300m) in what was his only other start prior to the Hilton Stakes, the son of Stratum produced a fairer effort, albeit amongst a small, un-heralding field, and posted a smart win.
O’Brien will saddle a number of classy three-year-olds this season including stakes winner Merriest, who is set to begin he Autumn Carnival campaign in the Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes (1400m) on February 11th.
The Denman filly has not been seen at the races since finishing fifth behind Jennifer Lynn in the Listed Lexus Hybrid Plate (1400m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, but has shown O’Brien plenty since returning to work.
“She’s had a good spell and is in nice shape,” the trainer said.
Merriest has posted two wins and a minor placing through seven career starts to date.