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V. E. Day Flies Under Radar in Curlin

With 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.

 

On 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.

 

Run 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.

 

"You 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."

 

V. 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.

 

As 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.

 

Jerkens 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 July 19.

 

"So, we decided to give it a shot," he said.

 

When 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.

 

Meantime, 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.

 

"I 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."

 

Going 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.

 


 

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