Tom Keithley's Divisidero has an impeccable record on Kentucky Derby day in the Bluegrass; to date, the 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy has won a turf stake on the first Saturday in May for three consecutive years. Ridden with stone-cold patience by Julien Leparoux, Divisidero was nearly last of the 11-horse field in the G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic when passing under the wire for the first time. Around the far turn, he struggled to find room so had to go widest of all to mount his rally, but it didn't stop last year's Woodford Reserve winner from repeating the victory again in 2017. Trained by Buff Bradley, Divisidero completed nine furlongs over Churchill Downs' “good” turf course in 1:52.42.
“We were far back early, but that's how the horse runs,” said Bradley. “Julien (Leparoux) said there wasn't much pace in there and he was correct, but I didn't want to take the horse out of his race. We know he likes to finish, even on a slow pace. I just told Julien 'you may just have to make your run earlier.' Julien is a great jockey so I don't have to tell him a whole lot. That was our plan to get the Keeneland race in and this was our goal. It's always nice to win at Keeneland, but we were happy with the outcome and how Julien felt about the horse. Derby Day has really been good to us. We're always happy to win on Derby Day before the biggest crowds.”
Conquest Panthera broke sharply from near the center of the starting gate, but Beach Patrol drove forward to take command as the field raced toward the wire for the first time. Beach Patrol settled into a one-length advantage over Enterprising and Conquest Panthera through a first quarter in 24.51 seconds, with Bal a Bali and Can'thelpbelieving just in behind those. At the rear of the field, Divisidero was passed by Oscar Nominated as the notoriously patient Leparoux asked his mount to settle at the rear of the field.
Down the back side the runners remained well off the rain-soaked inner hedge as Beach Patrol slowed a bit to mark the half-mile in 50.69 seconds. Oscar Nominated, originally at the back of the field, was nearly seven paths off the inner-most runner as he made a middle bid to sneak toward the leaders, but Enterprising and Conquest Panthera were still hanging strongly with the leading Beach Patrol. Leparoux did not start looking for room on Divisidero until approaching the far turn, but space between the pack was at a premium in the $500,000 contest.
Divisidero would have to go very, very wide to get clear running room; he was at least five paths off that traversed by Beach Patrol as he made the final turn, and at the head of the lane Leparoux would have to tip him out even another path. Meanwhile, Beach Patrol had dispensed with both Enterprising and Conquest Panthera, and a herd of contenders were vying for second position before Divisidero even entered the television screen, including Bal a Bali, Kaigun, and Can'thelpbelieving.
At the eighth pole Divisidero made his presence known, and he finally caught sight of the leading Beach Patrol. With two lengths to make up Leparoux got after his mount with a pair of sharp left-handed reminders, then hand-rode him up alongside the leader. Divisidero only briefly strode alongside Beach Patrol before surging forward once again to take the lead under the wire, winning by a half-length. Beach Patrol was forced to settle for second for the fourth race in a row, with Oscar Nominated making up enough ground to be third. Kaigun held on for fourth.
“On this kind of track, you want your horse to be relaxed and make a nice run,” Leparoux said. “Because the pace was so slow, we all bunched up so we were not too far behind. When I came out (for my run), he kicked home super. He ran a really big race today.”
Bred in Kentucky by Hinkle Farms, Divisidero was a $250,000 Keeneland September Yearling sale purchase. He broke his maiden at first asking, then recorded his first graded stakes win in the G2 American Turf (for 3-year-olds) on Derby day in 2015. Divisidero's first Grade 1 win would come in the 2016 Woodford Reserve, again on Derby day, and he did not win again until this year's edition. Overall, he has compiled a record of five wins, two seconds and three thirds from 13 starts for earnings of over $950,000.
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