Trainer Dale Romans’ three year old sensation has turned silver into gold on the turf this spring. Silver Max has won his last six starts on the turf, including five in a row. In 2011, the Badge of Silver colt couldn’t find the wire, running second in all of his 5 starts for owners Mark Bacon and Dana Wells. Silver Max has the best resume coming into the Virginia Derby of any starters in the race’s 14-year history and is a deserving favorite. He has yet to be headed at any point of call in six 2012 turf starts.
The draw for the Virginia Derby was held at
Hooter’s Restaurant on West Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia. The initial entries were announced by Todd
Parnell (Parnie), Richmond Flying Squirrels Vice-President and Minor League
Executive of the Year followed by Ross Grimsley, pitching coach of the Richmond
club and a left-handed pitcher for four different major league teams over an
eleven-year career. The draw was
completed by NHL defensiveman Rod Langway who played with the Montreal
Canadians and Washington Capitals.
|Between the Balloon Pop and the 30 cent shrimp,|
the Virginia Derby field was drawn Wednesday afternoon.
Silver Max will be tested to do Saturday evening (8:38 pm) what no Virginia Derby starter has ever done in its history, win it wire-to-wire. Winning it would also remove the only doubt race watchers may have about talent—distance. He has never gone more than a mile and sixteenth in his wins, many of which were in a driving manner. Robby Albarado gets his second assignment aboard Silver Max, one of nine different jockeys to ride him in his 12 race career.
|Is SILVER MAX the best Virginia Derby entry |
in the 14-year history of the race?
Yet lurking in the shadows of the 9-horse field is a talented group capable of spoiling any coronation in the three-year old turf division, some with compelling angles.
Silver Max’s may face the stiffest competition from his own stablemate, a comeback mount for jockey Kent Desormeaux getting reunited with the winner owner of 2010 Virginia Derby star Paddy O’Prado. Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing Stable returns to Colonial, this time with Finnegan’s Wake. In his head-to-head matchup with Silver Max, Finnegan’s Wake ran even with the frontrunner through the stretch. At Churchill Downs last month, Finnegan’s Wake scored an allowance race win on the turf at a mile and an eighth.
Christophe Clement won the 2008 Virginia Derby with Gio Ponti who became an exceptional older turf horse, a multiple Grade One winner. From his barn, he will send Summer Front and Easy Crossing. Summer Front is undefeated on the turf but has only seen it once this year, somehow finding the wire after following a miserable path in $150,000 Hill Prince stretch. Clement entered Summer Front on the dirt and synthetic hopeful to get a Triple Crown start until the Hill Prince verified his colt’s place on the turf. Ramon Dominquez, experienced at Colonial Downs, is the only jockey ever to ride Summer Front in six starts.
|Clement captured the 2008 Virginia Derby with Gio Ponti (#7) (Coady Photography)|
Lucky Chappy has raced on three continents and both US coasts for Team Valor International, his last start being in Dubai in the U.A.E. Derby in March. Alan Garcia is the rider choice for trainer Graham Motion on the Irish-bred who won twice in Italy as a two-year old. As an Irish-bred, Potaro won the 2001 Virginia Derby for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Among those jockey with tack hung at Colonial, Sheldon Russell, again on top of Colonial’s riding standings, gets Mr. Handsome while Horacio Karamanos rides Optimizer. Karamanos won the 2007 Virginia Derby with 37-1 longshot Red Giant in track record form.
|OPTIMIZER started for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in all three Triple Crown races. |
Here he gallops one morning at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby week.
Optimizer started in all three Triple Crown races on the dirt but has his only career win on the turf. Who were the winners of some of the Optimizer’s 12 career starts? How about Union Rags, I’ll Have Another twice, Bodemeister, Gemologist, then undefeated, Hansen, Dullahan, and Secret Circle. That’s pretty good class for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas conditioning his first Virginia Derby starter.
Two Months Rent and Coach Royal complete the nine horse Virginia Derby looking to make the board. Post time for the Virginia Derby is 8:38 PM, the ninth race of the 14 race program that included 5 stakes races.
|The $600,000 VIRGINIA DERBY (G2), A MILE AND A QUARTER ON THE TURF|
|1||Optimizer||H Karamanos||Bluegrass Hall, LLC||D W Lukas|
|2||Finnegans Wake||K J Desormeaux||Donegal Racing||D L Romans|
|3||Two Months Rent||J Pimentel||McCann & Associates, Inc & David E. Hager||J J Toner|
|4||Coach Royal||J Rocco, Jr.||James Covello and Carmine Inserra||J P Terranova, II|
|5||Summer Front||R A Dominguez||Waterford Stable||C Clement|
|6||Easy Crossing||J R Leparoux||Preston Stable||C Clement|
|7||Silver Max||R Albarado||Mark Bacon and Dana Wells||D L Romans|
|8||Lucky Chappy (IRE)||A Garcia||Team Valor International||H G Motion|
|9||Mr. Handsome||S Russell||Germania Farms, Inc.||T J Tullock, Jr.|