Many racing officials at Colonial Downs, weary of Central Virginia downpours, may have to pardon trainer James Toner if he does a rain dance Saturday morning before the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT). His trainee, Sailor’s Cap, will attempt to defeat eight others in the 1 1/4-mile contest for 3-year-olds on the turf.
In making his last three starts on either soft or yielding turf, Team Valor International’s Sailor’s Cap won the June 21 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), closed to within a neck on emerging rival Tizdejavu in the May 2 Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs, and won an allowance race on the Keeneland turf April 6.
Despite receiving somewhere between three to six inches of rain before and during the Colonial Turf Cup in June, the Secretariat Turf Course was officially listed as soft during the first leg of the Grand Slam of Grass. Jockey Alan Garcia kept Sailor’s Cap off the rail in order to have a clear shot at the wire and prevailed by 6 3/4 lengths in a boggy 2:04.42.
Trainer Christophe Clement’s Gio Ponti needs sunshine, or at least overcast conditions, to gain an advantage. He has won all of his turf starts over a firm course, the latest being the June 6 Hill Prince Stakes (gr.IIIT) at Belmont Park. In Gio Ponti’s only turf start on a yielding surface, he was eighth, four lengths back in the inaugural Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf last October. Garrett Gomez, who visited in the winner’s circle after the Hill Prince, returns for the assignment.
Several horses from the Turf Cup will attempt to defeat Sailor’s Cap in the Virginia Derby, including third and fourth-place finishers Your Round and Court Vision, respectively, as well as El Sultry Sun and Baltimore Bob.
Should Sailor’s Cap prevail, the third leg of the $5 million Jacobs’ Investments Grand Slam of Grass could feature a Crown Royal American Turf rematch in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park Aug. 9. The final leg of the Grand Slam of Grass is versus older horses in the Oct. 25 John Deere Breeder’s Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
Others in Virginia Derby field include Old Man Buck, Budge Man, and Southwest.
1) Your Round/James Lopez/ Mark Hubley
2) Old Man Buck/Robbie Albarado/Kenneth McPeek
3) El Sultry Sun/John Kimmel/Edgar Prado
4) Court Vision/Kent Desormeaux/William Mott
5) Baltimore Bob/Horacio Karamanos/Carlos Garcia
6) Budge Man/Horacio Karamanos/Kellyn Gorder
7) Gio Ponti/Garrett Gomez/Christophe Clement
8) Sailor’s Cap/Alan Garcia/James Toner
9) Southwest/Edgar Prado/Rodney Jenkins
The Virginia Derby is featured on this week's That Handicapping Show.