Doctor Decherd commenced a strong rally entering the lane to nip Itsallboutthechase by a nose in a head-bobbing stretch duel to capture Saturday's fifth running of the $125,000 Aventura Stakes, the opening leg of this year's Florida Derby (gr. I) series for 3-year-olds.
The winner, who is a son of Preakness winner Louis Quatorze
, was sent off at odds of 14-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Mike McCarty.
"When we made the lead he opened up a little bit and I guess he relaxed, but (Itsallboutthechase) came up alongside him and (Doctor Decherd) really tried to go after him," Bridgmohan said. "I went to him left-handed and he just kept on coming back. It was just a gutsy effort, just like he always gives us. He's definitely moving in the right direction."
Rallying to gain the third spot was My Golden Song, 5 1/4 lengths further back. All of the Aventura's first three finishers are automatically nominated to the $ 1 million Florida Derby to be run April 1.
The final time for the one-turn, one-mile dirt test was 1:37 3/5.
Highly regarded In Summation, the 9-5 favorite after winning the first two legs of the Florida Stallion Series, made the early pace but weakened from the effort to finish fifth. Fractions were :23 1/5, :46 and 1:11 2/5.
Centennial Farms' Corinthian was ordered scratched by the track veterinarian at the gate, reducing the field to 12 starters after Darley Stable's Barcola was withdrawn earlier in the day.
Doctor Decherd broke his maiden by 13 1/2 lengths two starts ago at Keeneland in October, but was a distant fourth as the favorite in a first-level allowance race at Churchill Downs Nov. 25. He won for the second time in four starts while pushing his earnings to $110,195.
"In his last race at Churchill he didn't get away very well and that hurt his chances in a big field," Asmussen noted. "I was very concerned about the size of the field today. He's a big horse but everything seemed to come together."
Asmussen said Doctor Decherd would try two turns next on March 4 in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II).
The winner paid $31, $12.40 and $6.80. Maiden winner Itsallaboutthechase, beaten in the final stride with Mark Guidry aboard, returned $8 and $4.80. My Golden Song, unbeaten in two starts for Todd Pletcher, was $3.20 to show with John Velazquez riding.
Then came Big Lover, In Summation, Saint Daimon, Catcominatcha, Little Cliff, D'broken Speed, Dixie Swinger, Liquoreux and Lake Kerr.