Eight graded stakes winners are among the 78 early nominations for $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs on June 16. Nominations for the 1 3/16-mile race also become nominated for the 1 ¼-mile, $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT). The Virginia Derby is run five weeks after the Turf Cup on July 21 on Colonial’s “Big Red” Green, the turf course named after Secretariat.
The Turf Cup and Virginia Derby comprise the first two “bases” of the Jacobs’ Investments $5 million Grand Slam of Grass. Third base is the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on August 11 with the $3 million John Deere Breeder’s Cup Turf (gr. IT) serving as home plate.
Todd Pletcher, who won both the Turf Cup and then the Virginia Derby with English Channel, leads all trainers with 11 nominations including Cowtown Cat winner of the $200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II).
Three-time Virginia Derby winning trainer Bill Mott has seven nominations including $150,000 Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Marcavelly. After giving it some initial consideration, Mott’s $150,000 Forerunner Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Moudez was not among the early nominees.
Trainer Dale Romans, who won the 2004 Virginia Derby with Kitten’s Joy, could return with Duveen, winner of the $150,000 Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs and the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park.
Other nominees include two horses trained by Darrin Miller-$750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Dominican and Sedgefield, both starters in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
California based graded stakes winners that were nominated include Desert Code, Bwana Bull and Whatsthescript. Desert Code won of the $100,000 Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita and is trained by David Hofmans. Bwana Bull is the $250,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, and Irish-bred Whatsthescript, winner of the $75,000 Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park as a 2- year-old, is trained by Doug O’Neil.
The first graded stakes 3-year old turf winner of the year was also nominated. Soldier’s Dancer won the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) on New Year’s Day for trainer David Vivian.
Owner Peter Vegso won the Virginia Derby with Orchard Park, Silver Tree and Go Between and hopes to win his fourth with Gweebarra trained by Neil Drysdale.
Dominican, Cowtown Cat, Sedgefield and Bwana Bull are four Kentucky Derby starters that have been nominated.
Late nominations for the Colonial Turf Cup close June 4 while late nominations for the Virginia Derby close July 9.
Seven graded stakes winners including Bear Now, Sealy Hill, and Val Benny were among the 66 three year old fillies nominated for the early closing of the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. The Virginia Oaks is run prior to the Virginia Derby on July 21st.