Virginia Derby Preview
Paddy O'Prado, Stately Victor renew rivalry in Virginia Derby
PADDY O'PRADO (El Prado [Ire]) and STATELY VICTOR (Ghostzapper), who have traded decisions on dirt and Polytrack, will get their rubber match on the turf in Saturday's $600,000 Virginia Derby (G2). The 1 1/4-mile affair anchors a five-stakes program at Colonial Downs.
Stately Victor won the first round in the April 10 Blue Grass S. (G1) on Keeneland's Polytrack. Ignored at 40-1 after losing five straight since his maiden score, the Mike Maker trainee came charging from off the pace to prevail by 4 1/4 lengths over Paddy O'Prado. Round two came in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1). Paddy O'Prado, a horse-for-the-course at Churchill Downs, ran a big race for third, while Stately Victor wound up a rough-trip eighth.
The pair then parted company. After a sixth in the May 15 Preakness S. (G1), Paddy O'Prado headed to the June 19 Colonial Turf Cup (G2) here, reverting to the grass for the first time since breaking his maiden in the Palm Beach S. (G3) in March. The Dale Romans charge was sent off as the 3-2 favorite at Colonial and lived up to his billing with a three-length score.
With that local prep under his belt, Paddy O'Prado has been installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite for the Virginia Derby. Romans has compared the gray to one of his past stars, Kitten's Joy, who won the 2004 Virginia Derby (G3) en route to his Eclipse Award as champion turf horse. Paddy O'Prado will try to keep those comparisons coming as he lines up with regular rider Kent Desormeaux in post 7.
Stately Victor has raced once since the Derby, crossing the wire eighth (subsequently promoted to seventh via disqualification) in the June 5 Belmont S. (G1), in a performance that reinforced the idea that he's not as proficient on dirt. The son of Grade 1 turf heroine Collect the Cash (Dynaformer) was a good-looking maiden winner on turf as a juvenile at Saratoga, and he's entitled to improve with the surface switch. Stately Victor will also receive six pounds from Paddy O'Prado, the 123-pound co-highweight. Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount on the bay, who is drawn on the outside in post 8.
Eligible to upstage them is the other 123-pound co-highweight, INTERACTIF (Broken Vow), an accomplished turf performer who took a detour through synthetic and dirt on the Triple Crown trail for Todd Pletcher. At two, the Wertheimer and Frere homebred was impressive when garnering the With Anticipation S. (G3), leaving Paddy O'Prado behind in third, as well as the Bourbon S. (G3). A close third after a wide trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2), he dropped a photo as the 4-5 favorite in his sophomore bow in the Hallandale Beach S., his last try on the grass.
Since then, Interactif was a rallying second to Sidney's Candy (Candy Ride [Arg]) in the March 13 San Felipe S. (G2) over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, a non-threatening fourth in the Blue Grass, and seventh (elevated to sixth) in the Belmont. New rider Javier Castellano will likely carve out a ground-saving trip from post 3.
Paddy O'Prado, Stately Victor and Interactif should have an honest pace to set up their late kick. Among the plethora of pace factors in the Virginia Derby, the most plausible win candidate is KRYPTON (Rock Hard Ten), who outdueled Nordic Truce (Yes It's True) in the June 4 Hill Prince S. (G3). The Kiaran McLaughlin colt has run exceptionally well each time Rajiv Maragh is in the saddle, and that could be a good omen for his chances in this spot. Krypton landed in post 2, just to the outside of the rail-drawn front runner TWO NOTCH ROAD (Partner's Hero), a fading third in the Colonial Turf Cup last time.
In the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (G3) at 1 1/8 grassy miles, CHECK THE LABEL (Stormin Fever) is the standout in the 10-filly field. The Graham Motion pupil has progressed over the course of the spring, culminating in victories in the April 15 Appalachian S. (G3) and May 31 Sands Point S. (G2). Dominguez will be back aboard the talented dark bay.
Her rivals include MARTITA SANGRITA (Johar), a closing fourth in the June 26 Boiling Springs S. (G3); IN THE ROUGH (Stormy Atlantic), who has lost her way a bit since defeating Check the Label in the Coconut Grove S. back in February; KILMORE QUAY (Ire) (Traditionally), a troubled sixth in her U.S. debut in the May 22 American One Thousand Guineas; and projected pacesetter MIDWAY HOLIDAY (Harlan's Holiday), who comes off a 4 3/4-length romp in an off-the-turf allowance on June 19 at Churchill.
ROCKABY BAY (Sahm) will attempt to defend his crown in the $50,000 Kitten's Joy S., but the Hamilton Smith veteran is marooned widest of all in post 13, and has gone winless since last year's running of the 1 1/16-mile turf test. BALTIMORE BOB (Malibu Moon), third in the 2009 Kitten's Joy, exits a victory over a few of these in the June 12 Da Hoss S. here, while SOUTHERN ANTHEM (Royal Anthem) steps up off a sharp allowance/optional claiming score at Churchill and PLEASANT STRIKE (Smart Strike) takes a class drop for Pletcher.
Juveniles will kick off the stakes action in two 5 1/2-furlong sprints on the grass. Romans will send out debut maiden conqueror Z APPEAL (Ghostzapper) versus nine opponents in the $50,000 Chenery S., and Ferris Allen III appears to hold a strong hand with the smashing maiden rompers VALIANT STAR (Grand Slam) and LATIKA (Wiseman's Ferry) in the $50,000 Tippett S. for fillies.
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