(NEW KENT, VA) — The top three finishers from the June 1st Penn Mile will square off again and clash with seven other three year olds in Saturday's $500,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. II) at Colonial Downs.
Penn Mile winner Rydilluc was named 9/5 early favorite at Wednesday's post position draw luncheon at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Richmond. Jockey Edgar Prado, who has guided the 3 year old Medaglia d'Oro colt to a perfect 4-for-4 record on turf, will be in the irons on Saturday again. Prado won three consecutive Virginia Derbies from 2002-2004.
Rydilluc captured the one mile turf stakes at Penn National by three-quarters of a length, but stretches to 1 1/4 miles in Virginia. Trainer Gary Contessa's charge also scored in the Grade III Palm Beach Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park.
Respective Penn Mile second and third place finishers Charming Kitten and Jack Milton have that same morning line distinction Saturday at 7-2 and 4-1. The duo, both trained by Todd Pletcher, crossed nearly together behind Rydullic six weeks ago.
Charming Kitten, who finished ninth in May's Kentucky Derby, has a trio of top three finishes in graded stakes. The Kitten's Joy colt took a tight third in the Grade I Bluegrass Stakes in April, was runner up to Rydilluc in the Palm Beach Stakes and earned a third last summer in the Grade II With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga. Jack Milton captured the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland this past April and has top three finishes in all four of his turf starts.
Ken McPeek's War Dancer is 6-1 and is fresh off a runner up finish in the $200,000 Centaur Stakes at Indiana Downs. In his second most recent out, The War Front colt finished finished third in the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs. Alan Garcia has the mount Saturday.
Michelle Nihei's Draw Two comes to Virginia with back to back wins in respective allowance and maiden special weight wins seven months apart. Redwood Kitten, one of three Derby entrants bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, finished third in the Transylvania Stakes and on Preakness Day, won the $100,000 James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico.
Mike Maker's Fear The Kitten is 0-for-6 this year and has yet to make a start on grass. Horacio Karamanos, Colonial's leading all time jockey, is up top. Karamanos scored an upset in the '07 Derby aboard Red Giant at 37-1 and three weeks ago, directed London Lane to a 50-1 upset win in the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup.
Rounding out the field is Gefest, whose only turf start in ten life outs was a fourth in the Grade III Arlington Classic, Readyshakego, who scored in a Colonial turf allowance opening day, and frequently raced Bethel, who makes his 14th start of 2013.
The first race on Saturday is scheduled for 5:00 PM. The Derby has been carded as the seventh, and will go off at 8:12 PM. There is an All Stakes Pick-5 wager available that covers races 3 thru 7 and includes the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (Gr. III) and a trio of $75,000 stakes — the Kitten's Joy, Tippett and Chenery — in addition to the Derby.
All races will be broadcast live on HRTV and streamed at www.drf.com.