June 24, 2024

Colonial season ends with stakes-laden Virginia Derby Day program

Program Trading (inside) comes again to beat Webslinger in the Saratoga Derby (Photo by Chris Rahayel/Coglianese Photos)

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The closing day program at Colonial Downs on Saturday will feature a bonanza of grass stakes, headed by the $500,000 Virginia Derby (G3) for three-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles.

The Derby field is led by the undefeated Program Trading, who notched his third win in succession with a wire-to-wire score in the Saratoga Derby (G1) last month in his stakes debut. He’s joined in the field by fellow Chad Brown trainee Activist Investing, who makes his stakes debut following an Aug. 13 allowance win at Saratoga.

Salute the Stars, who failed to fire in a tough renewal of the Haskell (G1) last time, returns to the turf for trainer Brad Cox. The son of Candy Ride kicked off his career on the grass last summer at Ellis Park, where he broke his maiden by three lengths. Salute the Stars captured the Pegasus S. over the dirt at Monmouth two back.

Gigante, the Virginia-bred who pulled off a 22-1 upset of the one-mile Secretariat (G2) at Colonial last month, is back for the Virginia Derby. The Steve Asmussen trainee has been hit or miss all season, though, and has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles.

Others of note in the lineup are Dataman and Ari Gold, one-two in last month’s Bald Eagle Derby at Laurel; Mondego, a respectable third in the Belmont Derby (G1) two back though well-beaten next time in the Saratoga Derby; and stakes newcomers Runaway Storm and Integration.

Mission of Joy, winner of the Florida Oaks (G3) over Alpha Bella and the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs earlier this year, looks a leading player in the $250,000 Virginia Oaks for three-year-old fillies over nine furlongs. Also likely to attract considerable attention is Idea Generation, a daughter of Dubawi who makes her stakes debut here for Chad Brown.

No Nay Mets, 5 1/2-length winner in a key edition of the Tyro S. at Monmouth in late July, is the juvenile to beat in the $125,000 Rosie’s S. over 5 1/2 furlongs. The longer distance counterpart for two-year-olds, the $125,000 Kitten’s Joy S. over 1 1/16 miles, appears more wide open, while Grade 2 veteran Temple is the marquee name in the $150,000 Colonial Cup for older horses over 1 1/2 miles.

Souper Quest, a dazzling allowance winner over soft ground at Saratoga most recently, makes his stakes debut in the $150,000 Da Hoss S. over 5 1/2 furlongs. Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) hero Nobals, most recently second in the Troy (G3), is entered here and in Saturday’s six-furlong Turf Sprint (G2) at Kentucky Downs, while other notable Da Hoss contenders include Alogon, Yes and Yes, and High Limit Room.