A couple of quality graded stakes on the lawn at Colonial Downs on Saturday will give us a peek into the class of three-year-old turf horses this year. The Grade 3 Virginia Oaks (post time 7:30 Eastern) will feature a filed of eight fillies going nine furlongs, while the Grade 2 Virginia Derby (post time 8:05 Eastern) has a field of 12 going ten furlongs.
Grade 3 Virginia Oaks, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf), Three-Year-Old Fillies
|1||Sassy's Dream||A. Garcia||K. McPeek||10/1|
|2||Summer Savory||K. Desormeaux||M. Stidham||8/1|
|3||Mystical Star||J. Lezcano||C. Clement||10/1|
|4||Dynamic Holiday||J. Leparoux||H. Motion||2/1|
|5||Wyomia||F. Lenclud||C. Garrison||12/1|
|6||Pink Pallet||E. Prado||H. Smith||20/1|
|7||Smart Sting||A. Solis||R. Attfield||6/1|
|8||Excited||J. Velazquez||T. Pletcher||8/5|
-Dynamic Holiday comes into the Oaks off a four-month layoff following a win in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream back on March 13th. She defeated three of her Oaks rivals in that race - Mystical Star, Excited, and Sassy's Dream. Both Mystical Star and Sassy's Dream won their next starts against allowance competition after the Herecomesthebride.
Over the past five years, Dynamic Holiday's trainer, Graham Motion, is 5-for-31 with horses coming into graded stakes race off of a layoff of 61 to 180 days (16%, $1.11 $2 ROI).
-It's hard to find excuses for Mystical Star's clunker in the G2-Sands Point last time out at Belmont despite looking hard at the charts and the replay from that day. She got into a bit of a pace duel with a 36/1 shot in the early stages but the pace was pedestrian over a turf course rated FIRM (26.11, 51.41, 1:13.34). What's even more disturbing about that race is the fact that Mystical Star never gets by the long-shot pacesetter until they are inside the final 1/16th (and the rest of the field has already passed them by).
Looking through the other turf races at Belmont that day (only one other turf route on the card), there didn't appear to be anything quirky going on with the course to suggest that it played unkind to front-runners or that it was tiring, so it's a bit perplexing as to why Mystical Star was that bad. We'll see if she's able to bounce back in the Oaks on Saturday.
Grade 2 Virginia Derby, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf), Three-Year-Olds
|1||Callingahardten||K. Desmoreaux||G. Simmis||15/1|
|2||Air Support||A. Solis||S. McGaughey||6/1|
|3||Newsdad||A. Garcia||W. Mott||15/1|
|4||Street Game||E. Prado||P. Serpe||4/1|
|5||Casino Host||C. DeCarlo||C. Brown||20/1|
|6||Thirtyfirststreet||C. Landeros||D. O'Neill||15/1|
|7||Banned||J. Lezcano||T. Proctor||5/2|
|8||Crimson China||J. Leparoux||H. Motion||5/1|
|9||The Waco Kid||W. Galviz||K. O'Connell||30/1|
|10||King Congie||J. Velazquez||T. Albertrani||8/1|
|11||Benergy||C. Nakatani||D. Romans||12/1|
|12||Watch Me Go||L. Garcia||K. O'Connell||15/1|
-Crimson China is one of the more interesting entries in the Virginia Derby; a perfect two-for-two on the green stuff, this colt attempted to get involved in the Triple Crown mix a bit last spring but ultimately didn't show enough in either the Rushaway or the G1-Blue Grass to get the job done. Trainer Graham Motion got him back onto the turf for his latest start in the Lamplighter at Monmouth Park (May 28th) where he won about as easily a horse can. The final margin was just a length but jockey Alan Garcia didn't have to work to hard to get Crimson China to pass his rivals in the stretch.
This colt is still lightly raced for his age and will be making only his seventh lifetime start in Saturday's race. Even a small step forward in this spot probably puts Crimson China right in the mix at the wire.
-Until he threw in a pretty big clunker in the Preakness, King Congie had been one of the more consistent three-year-olds this spring. Sure, he wasn't running in a ton of highly rated events (although he did run a nice 3rd in the Grade 1 Blue Grass), but he at least made good account of himself each time he stepd on the track. Many of his rivals can't say the same thing.
King Congie's 9th place finish in the Preakness is an easy throwout simply due to the surface as he had shown no desire to run on dirt prior to the second leg of the Triple Crown and he did nothing that day to dispel the notion that he greatly prefers turf and synthetic. If you only look at King Congie's turf and synthetic starts he's an excellent 4-2-0-2, a record which includes the Hallandale Beach where he crossed the finish line first but was placed 3rd after an inquiry. That DQ is the only thing keeping him from a perfect record on the lawn.
-Watch Me Go parlayed a win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby into a 6th place finish in the G3-Illinois Derby (17 lengths back) and a 18th place finish in the G1-Kentucky Derby (22 lengths back). After seemingly giving up hope that he'll be successful in dirt routes, the connections will put this three-year-old son of West Acre on the turf for the very first time on Saturday. Tough spot to make a turf debut.
Watch Me Go's sire, West Acre, does pretty well with horses running on grass (and those running on the plastic) but there has to be a concern with distance when his sire's offspring win at an average distance of approximately 6.5 furlongs. Even if we ignore pedigree, it's hard not to be skeptical of Watch Me Go winning at this distance when you see how he spit the bit in both the Illinois Derby and Kentucky Derby.