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Red Route One Follows Money to Dueling Grounds Derby

Graded stakes-winning dirt horse Red Route One  returns to grass and Kentucky Downs—the site of his first victory—in the $1 million Dueling Grounds Derby (G3T) at 1 5/16 miles Sept. 3. 

Red Route One comes into the Dueling Grounds Derby off his best race, closing from far back to win the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) by three lengths. Cristian Torres has the return mount as Red Route One seeks to improve upon his record of 3-2-1 in 12 starts, along with $1,045,025.

How long has the Dueling Grounds Derby been in the works?

“Since he broke his maiden last year,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, referencing a three-length victory last Sept. 5 in Red Route One’s second start. “He’s a very athletic horse. We liked him. He was a horse that obviously needed a distance of ground from the beginning, and our opportunities to run him two turns were on the turf. That was how it all started. He’s a very good horse, and that’s how he ended up here.”

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Owned by Kentucky Downs and The Mint Gaming Hall co-managing partner Ron Winchell, who runs as Winchell Thoroughbreds, Red Route One is among a dozen 3-year-olds entered for the Dueling Grounds Derby. Also on the card are the co-featured $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks and the $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap. Stakes purses at Kentucky Downs include supplements for Kentucky-breds.

After his turf debut, Red Route One went back to the dirt and finished third in Keeneland‘s Breeders’ Futurity (G1). If he didn’t do quite enough to get into the Kentucky Derby (G1), his victory in Oaklawn Park‘s ungraded Bath House Row Stakes got him a free spot in the Preakness Stakes (G1), in which he was fourth. After being well-beaten in the Belmont Stakes (G1), the 3-year-old son of Gun Runner   took a path with less resistance and won the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.

“His versatility has allowed both,” Asmussen said of running well on dirt and turf. “But his ability has made that money.”

Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has entered Belmont Derby Invitational (G1T) winner Far Bridge , most recently third in the Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1T). Pletcher also has Clever Thought  in Sunday’s race.

Also entering a pair is trainer Brian Lynch, who sends out Highway Robber  and Anglophile , who finished second and third in a tight three-way photo in Ellis Park‘s Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby. 

The Eddie Kenneally-trained Safeen  heads the Dueling Grounds Oaks, coming into the 1 5/16-mile race off a victory in the Pucker Up Stakes (G3T) at Ellis Park. Other graded winners in the lineup include Honeymoon Stakes (G3T) winner Selenaia , trained by Jonathan Thomas, and 2022 Natalma Stakes (G1T) winner Last Call , conditioned by Canadian trainer Kevin Attard.

The $500,000 NTL Handicap at a mile attracted a field of 10 older horses, including millionaire Field Pass , multiple stakes-winner King Cause , 2022 Kentucky Downs allowance winner Time for Trouble , multiple stakes-winner Fuerteventura , and 2021 Dueling Grounds Derby winner Accredit .

Entries: Dueling Grounds Oaks

Kentucky Downs, Sunday, September 03, 2023, Race 10

  • STK
  • One And Five Sixteenthm
  • Turf
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 5:28 PM (local)

Entries: National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby (G3T)

Kentucky Downs, Sunday, September 03, 2023, Race 11

  • Grade IIIT
  • One And Five Sixteenthm
  • Turf
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo
  • 6:00 PM (local)

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.

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