Argentine-bred Derby Rider went from last to first to win Sunday's $27,400 Portland Meadows Mile, the signature event of the Delta Park oval.
Racing out of the seven hole, the recent claim by Homer Thoroughbreds sat as far back as 16 lengths behind the pacesetters before defeating eight foes.
“I have been on him once before today,” said winning rider Javier Ortega, “but I watched a tape of his races last night. I knew he was a monster closer. I haven’t seen a horse here be able to close that well that in along time. I knew I’d have horse.”
Straight out of the gate, lukewarm favorite Tom Two, joined by second choice Lethal Grande, went to the front to dictate the early going.
With a quarter in :23 and the half in :46 3/5, Tom Two led the way by a length. Lethal Grande, who was named 2006 Oregon Older Horse for the third time in his career the evening prior, sat intently in a stalking position. Two and a half lengths behind them was the ground saving Brave Hearted.
At the top of the lane, Derby Rider sat sixth, still 10 lengths behind the leaders, but Ortega couldn’t have been more delighted with his positioning.
“When we hit the three-sixteenths pole, I was smiling because I knew I had it,” Ortega said. “He was moving like a freight train down the lane. He was so impressive.”
It marked the first Portland Meadows Mile victory for all the connections involved -- owners Homer Thoroughbreds, trainer Jason Homer, assistant trainer Debbie Jahns and Ortega. Derby Rider is an 8-year-old gelding by Ride the Rails.
Returning $10.20, $4.80 and $3.80, Derby Rider improved his career record to 7-5-7 from 31 tries and $149,485 in earnings. It was his lone start at Portland Meadows after being claimed for $16,000 out of a Golden Gate event on Feb. 2 expressly for this race.
Lethal Grande held tough for second and paid $5.60 and $4.20 with 25-1 shot Brave Hearted getting a perfect trip and running an impressive third to pay $7.40. Tom Two was fourth. Raggidy Rowe, Crimson Design, Hunt For Glory, Knightsbridge Road and Charlie’s Pride completed the field.
Derby Rider is expected to return to California for his next start.