Colonial Downs will hold the post position draw for the 12th running of the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) July 18 and an impressive list of probable starters is taking shape.
The most intriguing of prospects aiming for Colonial’s prized race is Nicanor, Barbaro’s full brother. After running fairly on dirt for three starts, the Michael Matz trainee switched to turf and broke his maiden at Delaware Park by a visually impressive 15 1/4 lengths. In his most recent start, he won an allowance and now looks to step up to stakes company.
Nicanor last breezed five furlongs in 1:01 at Fair Hill Training Center on July 7.
Also taking aim at the Derby are the top three finishers of the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT)--Battle of Hastings, Straight Story, and Lime Rickey. Having won the Turf Cup and now Derby bound, Battle of Hastings is alive in the Jacobs Investments Grand Slam of Grass purse/bonus program, where a horse that sweeps all four series legs will earn combined purse and bonus winnings of $5 million-plus. The final two series legs are the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IIT) at Arlington and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
Straight Story won an allowance by 6 1/4 lengths before losing the Turf Cup by a head, and Lime Rickey has finished on the board in 10 of 12 lifetime starts, including a third in the Turf Cup.
Hold Me Back will try to return from a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for his first start on a turf surface. A winner of Turfway Park’s Lanes End Stakes (gr. II) and a second place finisher in Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), Hold Me Back has run well on both dirt and artificial surfaces. Affirmatif, a highly consistent turf runner who has never finished worse than second in four starts, won the Woodlawn at Pimlico and most recently finished second in the Hill Prince (gr. III) at Belmont.
Also probable for the race is Florentino, winner of the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIT) at Churchill in his most recent outing, and El Crespo, who finished second behind Florentino in that race. El Crespo has also won the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Colonel Rutledge, winner of the JC Ellis Juvenile last summer, also looks to step up to graded stakes company.
The 1 1/4 mile turf race for 3-year olds will be held on July 18. The post position draw, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EDT, will be broadcast on TVG and can also be seen live at virginiaequestrian.com.