By Dave Zenner – Juddmonte’s Set Piece powered his way to a course and stakes record of 1:58.19 in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. The 1¼-quarter mile race was being held in Virginia for the first time in 2023 after having all but two of its previous editions held at Arlington Park where the previous stakes record had been 1:58.69, set by Awad in 1995.
Under Florent Geroux, Set Piece was allowed to sit at the back of field of 11 for the first mile of the 10-furlong race before shifting to the outside toward the top of the stretch. The son of Dansili rallied some seven wide in the lane and drew off to win by two lengths over defending champion Santin. It was another half-length back to third-place finisher Adhamo.
Fourth in this race last year when it was contested at Churchill Downs, this year’s Million represented the first Grade 1 win for the Brad Cox-trained son of Dansili who earned $582,800 to boost his bankroll to $1,686,904 while improving his record to 13-2-3 from 29 starts.
“It’s awesome for us (to get a Grade 1 win for this horse),” said Katie Tolbert, assistant to Cox. “He just hit $1 million (in purse earnings) in his last race and that was a big steppingstone for him. (Owner) Juddmonte has been wonderful to us. It’s great have a horse like this for them. He is the barn favorite. “Frenchie” (jockey Florent Geroux) loves him. We’re really happy for him. He is Florent’s favorite horse.”
This was the second Million victory for Geroux who previously scored with Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man in 2015 at Arlington Park.
Sent off at odds of more than 5-1 Set Piece returned $13.40, $6.20 and $4.20. Santin paid $8.20 and $5.60. Adhamo returned $4.
Never Explain, Win for the Money, Rockemperor, Strong Quality, Master Piece and Atone completed the order of finish.
Handle for the 11-race Festival of Racing Card was a Colonial Downs record of $9.955,739 smashing the previous mark of $6,512,767 set on Virginia Derby Day 2022 (September 6).
FEV ROVER WINS GRADE 1 BEVERLY D; PUNCHES TICKET TO BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE TURF
(NEW KENT, VA — 8/12/2023) — Tracy Farmer’s Irish-bred Fev Rover earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Saturday courtesy of a gate-to-wire effort in the $500,000 Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes at Colonial Downs, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win & You’re In race, one of three graded stakes on the track’s inaugural “Festival of Racing” card which also included the Grade 2 $500,000 Secretariat Stakes and Grade 1 Arlington Million.
The 5-year-old Gutaifan mare broke sharply from post one in the field of five, slowed the tempo down after gaining control and triggered respective early fractions of :25.12 and :50.10. Fev Rover picked it up at the head of the stretch after a brief challenge from Peter Brant’s Gina Romantica and cruised home to a 3½-length triumph in 1:54.35. The win, her fifth overall, pushed her bankroll to $948,776.
Fev Rover took a solid third most recently in the G1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga finishing just one-half length off the pace, which followed a solid 4-1/2 length score in the G2 Nassau Stakes at Woodbine.
Javier Castellano, who directed Secretariat Stakes winner Gigante in the previous race, rode the Beverly D winner for trainer Mark Casse who had three wins on the afternoon. The double Hall of Fame trainer, who has a stable based in New Kent for the first time, connected twice for D.J. Stable’s earlier in the card with Glider and Bouncer, the latter of which they co-own with Gary Barber.
“When we flew here this morning, Javier and I talked about there not being a lot of speed in the race,” Casse said. “Fev Rover is very versatile and she can do whatever you want. If the pace is fast, she can sit back and wait and if it isn’t, she’ll be in the lead. She’s a good horse and that’s what good horses do. She could be pushing to be a really good horse. She shows up every time.
“In the Diana, she showed that she belonged,” added Casse. “She was dominant in the Nassau and beat a pretty good group but that was only one turn. She came back two weeks after that. Allen Jerkens always told me, ‘I don’t understand trainers. They want to give them a rest when they’re running good. Give them a rest instead when they are running bad,’ so I run them. The Diana told me she was a Breeders’ Cup horse. I told Mr. Farmer after that race that we had a Cup horse.”
Sent off as the 3-5 post time favorite Fev Rover paid $3.20, $2.10 and $2.10. Gina Romantica returned $2.40 and $2.10. It was another 2¼ lengths to third-place finisher Romagna Mia who paid $2.10. Mise En Scene and Jan’s Girl completed the order of finish.
GIGANTE PULLS OFF MASSIVE UPSET IN GRADE 2 SECRETARIAT STAKES
Viginia-bred Champion wins race in first year held in Virginia
(NEW KENT, Va. – August 12, 2023) – Iapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing’s Virginia-bred Gigante made his triumphant return to the winner’s circle by pulling a massive 22-1 upset victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 $500,000 Secretariat Stakes at Colonial Downs. The race is being held in Virginia for the first time, making the victory for the Commonwealth that much sweeter.
Gigante, the 2022 Virginia-bred Champion 2-year-old, was ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Steve Asmussen and covered the one-mile over firm going in 1:35.10.
“I feel blessed Asmussen (trainer Steve) gave me the opportunity to ride that horse. I think I got along pretty good with him in the post parade. He acted very professionally. I had the best trip in the race. (I was) where I wanted to be today. There seemed to be a lot of speed in the race. I tried to use my patience. He broke so well from the gate and put me in good position. I just took my time and rode with a lot of patience, a lot of confidence and had the best result today.”
Mo Stash was hustled hard from the starting gate in the Secretariat Stakes and was joined by the forward-placed Major Dude as they entered the first turn. Following an opening quarter-mile in :23.67, Gigante was positioned in last but only 3½ lengths off the lead. The field began to bunch entering the far turn after a half-mile in :48.03 as Castellano began asking Gigante for his best run. At the quarter-mile pole, Gigante made a bold bid for the lead and took command into the lane but had to hold off the late charge of Nagirroc. Gigante kept finding more on the lead and was able to hold his rival at bay by a neck. It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Silver Knott in third who was followed in order by Major Dude, Northern Invader and Mo Stash.
Gigante, the longest priced horse in the field of six 3-year-olds at 22-1 rewarded his backers by returning $2 mutuels of $47.80, $15.20 and $5. Nagirroc, under Flavien Prat, paid $3.80 and $2.60. Silver Knott, who was ridden by Jamie Spencer, returned $2.80.
With his victory in the Secretariat Stakes, Gigante improved his overall mark to 9-4-0-1 and boosted his overall purse earnings to $583,550.
Gigante is a 3-year-old son of Not This Time out of the Empire Maker Mare Summertime Green. He was bred in Virginia by Ann Mudge Backer and Smitten Farm.
Colonial Downs was the starting point for Gigante. He broke his maiden here one year ago on the dirt and subsequently demolished a field of seven rivals in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes on turf.