(NEW KENT, VA) — Silver Max and Summer Front will co-headline a nine race field in the 15th running of the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. II) this Saturday evening at Colonial Downs. The stakes race for three year olds will be held at the 1 ¼ mile distance over the Secretariat Turf Course.
Silver Max is 5-for-5 in his last five races, all on turf. The five-pack all came at different tracks with different jockeys, and all came in dominating gate to wire fashion. The Dale Romans trainee won the American Turf (Gr. II) at Churchill May 4th and most recently captured the $125,000 Arlington Classic and $210,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs. Silver Max has yet to race any distance longer than 1 1/16th miles. The Badge of Silver colt will leave from gate position 7 with Robbie Albarado in the irons.
Summer Front, winner of the Grade III Hill Prince Stakes June 16th at Belmont, is undefeated in his four turf starts. Trainer Christophe Clemente went away from grass at Keeneland in the Grade III Lexington Stakes and at Belmont in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes. After respective 2nd and 8th place finishes, the War Front colt is back on turf for the second straight time and will leave from post five with Ramon Dominguez up top.
Both trainer Romans and Clemente each have a second Derby horse entered. Finnegans Wake is owned by Donegal Racing, who captured the 2010 Virginia Derby and Colonial Turf with Paddy O’Prado. Kent Desormeaux guided Paddy, and he’ll direct Romans’ charge from post 2. Easy Crossing has finished no worse than second in five turf starts for Clemente. The English Channel colt, who did not race as a 2 year old, will leave from post six under Julien Leparoux.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will race in the Virginia Derby for the first time with Optimizer, a horse that competed in all three Triple Crown legs this year. Another English Channel colt, Optimizer will make his 8th start of 2012 and first on grass since last fall. Horacio Karamanos, Colonial’s second leading rider who scored a Derby win aboard Red Giant in ’07, has the mount.
Trainer Graham Motion entered Irish-bred Lucky Chappy, who last raced in Dubai March 31st in the Grade II UAE Derby. The High Chaparrel colt, with $154,877 in grass earnings, raced in Italy last summer, then made four U.S. starts before heading to Dubai. Jockey Alan Garcia will guide the well traveled horse for Team Valor from post 8.
Rounding out the field is Coach Royal, Mr. Handsome and Two Months Rent.
Four other stakes, including the Grade III Virginia Oaks, and the $50,000 Chenery, Tippett & Kitten’s Joy Stakes will also be on Saturday’s card. They will be raced consecutively before the Derby to create an All Stakes, All Turf Pick-5. The first of 14 races will go to post at 5 PM. The Pick-5 will begin with the fifth race and the Derby is scheduled for the 9th at 8:38 PM.