Although the names wouldn't lead you to think so, Flying Dash and Orchard Park were heading into the fifth running of the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs Saturday touted as a monster matchup.
The thought of running against these two exceptional 3-year-old turf colts was unappetizing to many of the 60 interests nominated to the Virginia Derby, leaving six starters going to the gate for $500,000 in purse money.
A crowd of 7,991 showed to watch the duel of two horses with recognizable connections. Neil Drysdale, who was on hand to saddle the German-bred colt for jockey Victor Espinoza, trains Flying Dash. Bill Mott, gave the mount of Orchard Park to Edgar Prado for the first time.
The race did not provide any surprises as they turned for home. Orchard Park took the lead from Touring England as they approached midway in the turn. Prado guided Orchard Park to the rail and put away Jeremiah Jack who had moved with Orchard Park. As they hit the stretch, all that was left to do was hold off Flying Dash, who swung three wide to take aim of the new leader. Flying Dash couldn't come any closer than a length in the stretch as the two top choices ran evenly in the stretch. Ironically, the largest purse of the Virginia Derby produced the slowest time in the 5-year running, 2:03.10.
The Virginia Derby that had started perfectly turned chaotic into the first turn. Flying Dash got shuffled out and caught widest in the turn. Espinoza, fearfulof losing ground, took Flying Dash back and settled him down on the rail to go up the backstretch. Orchard Park was inside of Flying Dash going into the turn and never let anyone by from there. Prado's first mount on Orchard Park was a winning one at the track he knows well. Prado was the leading jockey at Colonial Downs the first two meets at Virginia's track.
"I started riding here several years ago, it's very nice," said Prado. "It's pretty even all the way around."
Prado returned to this summer's meet as a conquering hero with a win aboard Redneck Etiquette in the eighth race. For Victor Espinoza, his first trip to Colonial resulted in two seconds aboard the two stakes favorites.
History repeated itself in the next race, the grade III All Along Stakes. The public once again made Espinoza the favorite aboard Golden Corona. With Horatio Karamanos, the meet's leading jockey aboard, Secret River put away the pacesetter, Quidnaskra, and emerged out of the turn to lead by a head. Secret River held off Golden Corona by a neck at the finish. As in the Virginia Derby, Espinoza did not gain or lose ground in the stretch.
Handle and attendance for the Virginia Derby were up over last year. Total handle for the Virginia Derby was $1,865,334 exceeding last year's handle of $1,756,415. This year attendance of 7,991 easily exceeded last year's crowd of 4,764.