Photo: Chris 'Dark Horse' Sorenson
On a hot and sticky night in New Kent County, Virginia,
Kenny McPeek’s War Dancer split foes and edged out Charming Kitten and Jack Milton to take the Virginia Derby in 2:03 and 2/5 seconds at Colonial Downs.
In the beginning of the race there was no twist to the plot as
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Redwood Kitten went out to the early lead. The lone
gelding in the field was ahead by a length or so for most of the race with 5/2
favorite Rydilluc sitting back in second for the first mile. Redwood Kitten set
some honest fractions of :24, :48.4, and 1:13.4 on the Secretariat turf course
rated as good today after monsoon like conditions hit the track right before race one.
The horses maintained position throughout the first mile
then everything changed around the far turn. Redwood Kitten could not maintain
the lead and faded to 5th. Rydilluc has nothing left in the gas tank
and stopped, ultimately finishing 8th. However when it comes down to
it, this was one of the more exciting stretch battles I’ve seen in a while.
War Dancer was three-wide for most of the race and floated
into the four-path at the top of the stretch. Charming Kitten was making a
strong move along the rail and just missed while Jack Milton closed hard on the
outside after saving ground to create this amazing three-way photo finish! In
the end it was War Dancer by a head. Charming Kitten finished second by a head
over Jack Milton.
Jockey Alan Garcia noted after the race, “The horse had a
good trip and he did all the right things. He won and that was the main thing.”
Garcia also said that he “knew” he had the photo at the wire!
Trainer Kenny McPeek who had a tough run with Atigun in the
Colonial Turf Cup earlier this year finally breaks through with War Dancer. “The
ownership group is a good group of people and they were very patient with this
colt.” And for his thoughts on War Dancer, “the mile was too short last time,
and he also needs some pace to run at. We have been planning on running at the
Virginia Derby for some time. It is an honor to win this race.” Seems like a
great investment for $220,000!
McPeek also said that they will be looking towards the Secretariat
Stakes at Arlington Park on Million Day if the horse comes out of the race ok. It’s
quite possible that Charming Kitten will also head to the Secretariat Stakes.
War Dancer paid $16.80 to win.