so much attention paid to Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong,
another quality 3-year-old in the barn of James Jerkens had little
trouble flying under the radar.
Friday, that other colt, V. E. Day, stepped into the spotlight,
rallying powerfully six wide in the stretch to score in a three-way
photo finish in the $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
the day before the higher profile Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy -
Saratoga's principal prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on
August 23 - the Curlin is designed for talented runners still looking to
burnish their credentials. V. E. Day did just that, launching himself
into the Travers conversation, according to trainer James Jerkens.
gotta think about it, but it's too early to tell," Jerkens said in the
winners' circle. "We'll have to analyze a bunch of things to see how the
race holds up, time-wise and numbers-wise and all that stuff. We'll
see. But, you know, a mile and a quarter - they all don't want to go a
mile and a quarter. It looks like he can do it, so you've got to
seriously think about it."
E. Day ran the 1 1/8-mile Curlin in 1:50.91, nipping Charge Now by a
head. Tepid favorite Protonico was a nose back in third followed by
late-running Viva Majorca, Spot, Joint Custody, Life in Shambles,
Tiz'naz and Cousin Stephen.
Jockey Jose Lezcano notched his 2,000th North American victory in the race.
The winner, off at 8-1, paid $18.20 for a $2 win bet.
a son of 2007 turf champion English Channel and a dam from the female
family of 1988 turf champion Sunshine Forever, V. E. Day has looked like
a natural grass horse. That's the way Jerkens started his career, with
two 1 1/8-mile turf races this past winter at Gulfstream Park. The only
time he ran on the dirt before the Curlin was in the slop in May at
Belmont Park, when he broke his maiden.
returned V. E. Day to the turf July 2 at Belmont, and the colt
responded with a two-length score. Yet the trainer decided on the Curlin
after V. E. Day worked seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5 on the main track on
"So, we decided to give it a shot," he said.
the gate opened, Maryland invader Joint Custody broke sharply from the
No. 9 post with Life in Shambles to his outside. Long shot Tiz'naz,
however, wrested the lead from them and led through a quarter-mile in
24.06 seconds and a half in 47.96.
Protonico saved ground racing in fourth and Charge Now was in the clear
also just off the pace. V. E. Day lagged in ninth and last, about nine
lengths behind the leader.
knew he'd be back there," Jerkens said. "On paper, it looked like there
would be a ton of speed in there. It looked like it was a little bit of
a cavalry charge going into the turn there, and we were tucked in
behind there, saving ourselves."
into the far turn, Joint Custody took a short lead and Charge Now swung
wide and attacked. Protonico also moved strongly from the rail.
Track announcer Tom Durkin caught the winner inside the eighth pole.
"V. E. Day is produced on the far outside to clear running!" he announced.
With Charge Now in between, the three crossed the finish line together and Viva Majorca coming fast on the outside.
"He saw the horses and kept running," Lezcano said. "I saved ground the whole way, and when I asked him, he gave me a kick."
The kick just might be into the Travers.
V. E. Day scored for the third straight time, and with the $60,000 winner's purse, increased his lifetime earnings to $159,010.