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Virginia Derby at a Glance

The Virginia Derby (G3T) has served as a springboard to stardom this century for champions Kitten’s Joy, English Channel, and Gio Ponti  , and has for years been a key fixture of the meet at Colonial Downs. The 2023 edition of the 1 1/8-mile, grade 3 race drew a robust field of 11 3-year-old males led by unbeaten grade 1 winner Program Trading  and Gigante , winner of the grade 2 Secretariat Stakes on this turf course Aug. 12.

1. Freedom Trail : Winless in five starts since a victory in the Awad Stakes in his second career race. Has faced quality competition throughout his career, but Freedom Trail enters off a third as the 3-2 favorite in the Kent Stakes at Delaware Park and this assignment is considerably tougher.

JOCKEY: Antonio Gallardo; TRAINER: John P. Terranova II

2. Gigante: He’s been a little up and down in his career but when he’s good, he’s very good as evidenced by his win in the Secretariat Stakes here at 22-1 odds Aug. 12. Seems to like this course as he’s won twice with a third in four races on the grass at Colonial Downs. He’s a win candidate but he won’t pay $47.80 for a $2 win bet if he gets the job done again.

JOCKEY: Cristian Torres; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen

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3. Runaway Storm : Lightly raced but very interesting wild card coming off back-to-back front-running wins at Laurel Park going 1 1/8 miles in June and Horseshoe Indianapolis at 1 1/16 miles in August. Earned a solid speed figure for his recent allowance win and could be the one to catch. Potentially dangerous.

JOCKEY: Colby Hernandez; TRAINER: Ethan West

4. Salute the Stars : A stakes winner on dirt in 2023 after beginning his career on the grass and winning one of two turf starts last year. He’s back on grass here after an unplaced finish in the Haskell Stakes (G1), where he was rank early and encountered some trouble. He can be a real handful in races, but if new rider Sheldon Russell can settle him early, he could spring a surprise in his return to sod.

JOCKEY: Sheldon Russell; TRAINER: Brad Cox

5. Dataman : Well-bred Wertheimer and Frere homebred appears to be coming into his own in the second half of his 3-year-old season with an off-the-turf runaway win followed by a three-quarter-length score at 12-1 odds in the Bald Eagle Derby at Laurel. Intriguing and could be a nice price.

JOCKEY: Jorge Ruiz; TRAINER: Graham Motion

6. Mondego : Posted two wins and one second in his first four starts, all at this 1 1/8-mile distance on the grass, then hooked up with the big boys in grade 1 races. He led in deep stretch in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) before giving way late when third, beaten by a length. He was then unplaced on yielding turf in the1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T). This feels like an ideal spot for a return to form.

JOCKEY: Trevor McCarthy; TRAINER: Christophe Clement

7. Activist Investing : Figures to attract plenty of money coming out of back-to-back wins from the barn of elite turf trainer Chad Brown, although stablemate Program Trading almost certainly will generate more support of the two Brown entrants. Expect Activist Investing to be right in the mix in deep stretch.

JOCKEY: Feargal Lynch; TRAINER: Chad Brown

8. Laurel Valley : Got a dream trip in most recent start when earning his first win in his sixth career start against New York-breds Aug. 23 at Saratoga Race Course. It sure looks like he’ll be challenged for the lead in the Virginia Derby and this is a much tougher group than the non-winners he beat last time.

JOCKEY: Horacio Karamanos; TRAINER: Mike Maker

9. Integration : Won his career debut by 6 1/2 lengths here at Colonial in a 1 1/16-mile race Aug. 12. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey is known for his patience so seeing Integration entered in a grade 2 race in his second start indicates he thinks very highly of this Quality Road   colt out of grade 1 winner Harmonize. It could be too much too soon for Integration … or maybe he’s a special 3-year-old. We’ll find out Saturday.

JOCKEY: Kendrick Carmouche; TRAINER: Shug McGaughey

10. Ari Gold : Another entrant with speed, Ari Gold enters off a runner-up finish to fellow Virginia Derby entrant Dataman in the Bald Eagle Derby. He figures to be double-digit odds for the accomplished jockey-trainer tandem of Jose Ortiz and Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, which speaks to the depth of this field as a victory would be no surprise.

JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher

11. Program Trading : Unbeaten in three starts and coming off a grade 1 win for Brown in the Saratoga Derby, Program Trading figures to be the post-time favorite in the Virginia Derby. He drew a tough post but has the tactical speed to gain decent early position. 

JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Chad Brown

THE PICK: Mondego


SUPERFECTA: 6-11-10-7

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