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Rydilluc Favored in Saturday’s Tough Virginia Derby


The “Super Bowl” of Virginia Racing occurs this Saturday evening as Colonial Downs features the $500,000 Grade 2 Virginia Derby; a contest of the best three year old turf monsters in the nation. This battle takes place on the Colonial Downs expansive turf course at the classic distance of ten furlongs. Four time winner Rydilluc is the 9/5 morning line favorite and he will take on two of the other top three finishers of this year’s Penn Mile. Let’s preview the 2013 edition of the Virginia Derby and also take a quick look at the Grade 3 $150,000 Virginia Oaks too.


The Virginia Derby has been the gem of the Colonial Downs annual meet since 1998; right after the track opened in 1997. Many great turf horses have contested the derby on the Colonial oval including the likes of derby winners Kitten’s Joy (2004), English Channel (2005), Gio Ponti (2008), Battle of Hastings (2009), Paddy O’Prado (2011), and the front-running Silver Max last year. Red Giant set the stakes record back in 2007 finishing the ten furlongs in less than two minutes (1:59.3)!!!! Only two other horses finished the race in less than two minutes; and they were Phi Beta Doc in 1999 and Go Between in 2006. For jockeys, Edgar Prado has won this race three times, and for trainers Bill Mott has also won this race three times.  Let's look at some of the previous versions of this great race!

SILVER MAX wins the 2012 Virginia Derby


Paddy O'Prado wins the 2010 Virginia Derby


Battle of Hastings wins the 2009 Virginia Derby


GIO PONTI (my favorite) wins the 2008 Virginia Derby


This year’s field is quite salty and the top three finishers from the Penn Mile will square off against each other once again. Let’s preview the matchup:

(First, here, check out this year's Penn Mile... whoa)


#1 – Bethel - Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko ships in Bethel to try to get his first win on the grass in a graded stake. Bethel last ran in the Grade 3 Pegasus back on June 16th at Monmouth where he was no match for Verrazano who had a dominating performance that day. His last turf race was on May 31st at Arlington Park where he finished second in a first level optional claiming allowance race. Bethel’s past performances indicate that he will be behind early and I wonder if jockey Sheldon Russell will want him a little closer to the lead in this affair. This horse hasn’t posted any published works in almost a month and I feel he is a bit outmatched in this field.


#2 – Redwood Kitten – The Ramsey’s must really want to win this race as they have two entries here; Redwood Kitten and Charming Kitten (they also bred Fear The Kitten as well). Redwood Kitten has hit the board in six of eight starts on the grass, most recently in the Murphy Stakes on Preakness day back in May. There’s a lot to like about this horse, however it seems that he might like the mile distance and I’m concerned that ten furlongs might be a bit too far. Still, he is improving with each and every start and it wouldn’t surprise me if Redwood Kitten got a piece of this race. Besides, he has the jockey with the hot hand in Joel Rosario on board and that has to count for something.

REDWOOD KITTEN wins the Murphy


#3 – Charming Kitten – The Ramsey’s “other” horse in this race, Charming Kitten has yet to finish off the board in a turf race. In the hotly contested Penn Mile, Charming Kitten almost ran down favorite Rydilluc; just missing by ¾ of a length, although Rydilluc has gotten the best of Charming Kitten both of the other times they faced each other on grass (though Charming Kitten beat Rydilluc in the Grade 1 Bluegrass). Still, this horse seems to like to rally from behind and the extra distance should suit him well. Interesting to note that Joel Rosario is also listed as the jockey on this horse as well so it will be interesting to see which mount he chooses for the race.


#4 – Rydilluc – This horse deserves to be the 9/5 favorite. Rydilluc is a perfect 4-for-4 on the grass and seems to handle the lawn with ease. Sure he only beat Charming Kitten and Jack Milton by ¾ of a length in the Penn Mile, but that race was two furlongs shorter than the Virginia Derby, and Rydilluc already proved he can get at least nine furlongs based on the sound victory in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream back in March.


#5 – Jack Milton – Here is a horse which I am really looking forward to running this weekend. Jack Milton has been impressive in his last two starts; a victory in the Grade 3 Transylvanian at Keeneland back in April, and the (barely) third place finish in the previously mentioned Penn Mile. Jack Milton was closing late and he should like the extra distance. His pedigree suggests he will like it as well. Trainer Todd Pletcher sends his “main man” Johnny Velazquez to ride Jack Milton again. The two hit at a 30% win rate together.

JACK MILTON wins the 2013 Transylvania


#6 – War Dancer – Kenny McPeek, who sent Atigun in the Colonial Turf Cup just a couple of weeks ago, tries the Virginia turf course again, this time with War Dancer. This horse is a perfect 5-for-5 in the money on grass with two victories both over one mile. This horse also will close in from behind (likely with many others in this field) yet I wonder if he has the class to get the job done. Being the most expensive horse in the field (purchased for $220,000 in August of 2011), perhaps you still can’t count him out.


#7 – Readyshakego – On paper this horse seems outmatched in this field. However this is the ONLY horse in the field not only to have run at 10 furlongs before, but he won at that distance on Colonial Downs’ opening night back on June 8th. Still, this horse has yet to face this kind of competition. HRN’s own Gary Quill touts the turf abilities of jocket Forest Boyce however…


#8 – Gefest – Gennadi Dorochenko’s other runner in this stakes race, Gefest has only one other race on the grass; a third place finish (by disqualification) in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic back in May. Missing by only 1 ¼ lengths, this horse outran his odds in that race at 40-1. Still, for me, this horse has a lot to prove against this field.


#9 – Fear The Kitten – LONG SHOT ALERT!! OK check this out. I think there are many factors which give this 0-for-6 in 2013 starter a chance. Although this horse is making his first ever start on the grass, his pedigree screams turf breeding being a son of Kitten’s Joy and a grandson of Dynaformer. So we’re all set there. Second, in each of his two graded stakes races at 1 1/8 miles, he may have finished fifth each time, but he was gaining at the end of each race. The distance should suit Fear The Kitten very well. Next, local favorite jockey Horacio Karamanos gets the mount. Let’s not forget that he rode 50-1 long shot London Lane home to victory in the Colonial Turf Cup just a few weeks ago. OK so not convinced yet? Does the fact that he is a beaten favorite sway your opinion at all?


#10 – Draw Two – Another interesting entry in the field, Draw Two is also a perfect 4-for-4 in the money on grass, He has won his last two starts on yielding grass; the maiden victory and an allowance win both at Belmont. The horse has improved in each start and ships in after training at Saratoga for a while. The last two victories are impressive and this horse could surprise here. The one time jockey Jose Lezcano and trainer Michelle Nehei have teamed up over the last two years was a victory.


Pace Scenario: In this field I see one or two horses that could go to the lead; #2 Redwood Kitten and maybe #8 Gefest. If Redwood Kitten gets out to the lead alone, I wonder if the lone gelding in the field could hang on the whole way? However I see a huge cavalry charge at the end with many horses coming from off the pace or from way behind.


My Choice: It’s hard to go against the three Penn Mile runners in Charming Kitten, Rydilluc, and Jack Milton as they seem to be the class of this field. I think War Dancer and Redwood Kitten could get a piece and I will say “look out” for Fear The Kitten as a live long shot!


There will be five stakes races in a row starting in race 3; featuring an all-stakes pick 5 wager! The other races featured in this string are:


  • Race 3 - $75,000 Chenery Stakes for two year olds running 5 ½ furlongs
  • Race 4 - $75,000 Tippett Stakes for two year old fillies running 5 ½ furlongs
  • Race 5 - $75,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes for three year olds and upwards running 12 furlongs
  • Race 6 - $150,000 Virginia Oaks for three year old fillies running 9 furlongs
  • Race 7 – The FEATURED Virginia Derby


For the $150,000 Grade 3 Virginia Oaks, my choices are #5 Praia and #6 Blossom’s Trail.


I will be providing exclusive coverage for Horse Racing Nation during the entire Colonial Downs card on closing night! Be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter!



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Older Comments about Rydilluc Favored in Saturday’s Tough Virginia Derby...

Fear the Kitten *meow.
I am going to pick Charming Kitten but I'll take a waver on Dorochenko's longshots.
yes IF I played that course
True Vic, if you can find out who has been on the grounds versus who is shipping in for the day, you might have an advantage.
shippers have notoriously had a tough time at that venue
extra 1/4 mile. jack milton should be hooking rydilluc on the far turn.i think he has the ability to outkick him to the wire.
Interesting note on some jockey changes at CNL for Saturday... in R2 Karamanos and Russell switched mounts from the early PP's...Russell also picks up a mount in the 4th race, X Perez picks up a mount in R5 while Karamanos loses a mount in the same race... finally Russell loses his mount in the Virginia Derby to X Perez. Weird.
I wonder if Draw Two is the wise guy pick here.
IMO Up With the Birds should be here haha
he doubt it
Fear the Kitten is a nice longshot chance as long as he is at least 10-1..but he might fall under that being a possible "wise guy" horse in the race.
Fear the Kitten is a good long shot choice IMHO
Redwood Kitten might scratch and I'll go Fear the Kitten.
Lone speed kills, I think Gefest could go too though, and I'm not sure Redwood Kitten has the stamina for 10 F.
Haven't had much luck in this race but taking another shot with War Dancer and possibly Jack Milton...M/L odds will be factor in betting.
Might have to go with the loose on the lead angle in this one as it seems that most of the field will be running late.
Seems like a sound strategy.
Rydilluc is a BEAST, I will key him on top with the longshot deep closers in exactas and hope for a bomb.
Great analysis Chris. Let's hope that the (nice) weather forecast holds up, because Colonial Downs Mgmt must be running out of rats to keep the power on, as with every t'storm the rats must drown?! ;)
The usual complete big race analysis from the Dark Horse.

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Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
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