Silver Max puts a five-race winning streak on the line as the 123-pound high weight in the $600,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) July 21, the showcase event of the summer meet at Colonial Downs.
In his past five starts on turf this season, no horse has been able to head Silver Max, who will face eight sophomore opponents in the 10-furlong turf event. The Virginia Derby, which follows the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT) on the program, is set as the ninth race at approximately 8:38 p.m. EDT.
Silver Max, trained by Dale Romans, was scratched from the American Derby (gr. IIT) July 14 at Arlington Park, a race won by his stablemate Cozzetti. The Badge of Silver colt lands in a tougher spot here, spotting his rivals from four to six pounds while attempting a distance that is three-sixteenths of a mile farther than he has gone before.
During his current streak, the speedy Silver Max has won four consecutive turf stakes wins starting with the Transylvania (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in April. He followed that 5 3/4-length romp with victories in the American Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs and the Arlington Classic in Illinois May 26. In his most recent start June 13 at Indiana Downs, Silver Max drew off to a 6 3/4-length win over Cozzetti while posting a course-record time of 1:33 4/5.
Silver Max, owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells, has six wins and five seconds in 12 lifetime starts with earnings of $503,167. Robby Albarado, who rode the bay colt in the Transylvania, has the mount and they break from post 7.
Romans also entered Donnegal Racing's improving Finnegans Wake , a first-level allowance winner as the favorite in his most recent start June 10 at Churchill Downs.
Summer Front , 4-for-4 on the turf in his career for trainer Christophe Clement, heads the opposition. Waterford Stable's son of War Front is coming off a half-length triumph in the one-mile Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park June 16. Summer Front was in tight for a quarter mile before getting clear in the final sixteenth. He prevailed under Ramon Dominguez, who has been aboard the bay colt in all six of his prior races.
Clement also entered Easy Crossing, coming off a runner-up effort as the favorite in a minor stakes at Belmont June 29 on the inner course.
Team Valor International's Lucky Chappy makes his first appearance for trainer Graham Motion since finishing seventh in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-II) at Meydan Race Course on World Cup night March 31. The little son of High Chaparral was a minor stakes winner in Italy and has twice placed in grade III events in the United States. An Irish-bred bay colt to be ridden by Alan Garcia, he ran fourth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvneile Turf (gr. IT).
Optimizer , after competing unsuccessfully in all three jewels of the 2012 Triple Crown series, gets back on turf for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Bluegrass Hall's son of 2005 Virginia Derby winner English Channel broke his maiden in his debut on grass at Saratoga Race Course last August. He followed that effort a month later with a victory in Saratoga's With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT).
Outsiders Two Months Rent, Coach Royal, and Mr. Handsome complete the field.
$600,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT, Race 9, 8:38 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Optimizer (KY), H Karamanos, 117, D W Lukas
2. Finnegans Wake (KY), K J Desormeaux, 117, D L Romans
3. Two Months Rent (KY), J Pimentel, 117, J J Toner
4. Coach Royal (KY), J Rocco Jr., 117, J P Terranova II
5. Summer Front (KY), R A Dominguez, 119, C Clement
6. Easy Crossing (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, C Clement
7. Silver Max (KY), R Albarado, 123, D L Romans
8. Lucky Chappy (IRE), A Garcia, 117, H G Motion
9. Mr. Handsome (KY), S Russell, 117, T J Tullock Jr.