English Bee, who races in the colors of Calumet Farm, stalked a pedestrian pace before overtaking front-running Credit Swap in mid-stretch, and held off a late rally from Jais's Solitude to win the Grade 3, $250,000 New Kent Virginia Derby by a head at Colonial Downs in Virginia. Jorge Vargas, Jr. was aboard the Graham Motion-trained son of 2005 Virginia Derby winner English Channel. English Bee covered a mile and an eighth over the Secretariat Turf Course in 1:52.94.
Credit Swap, ridden by Trevor McCarthy, set lethargic fractions of :26.40, :52.66, 1:18.29 and 1:41.74 before getting passed by the eventual winner. “I knew we were going kind of slow,” said Vargas, who was picking up his second stakes win of the night after capturing the Exacta Systems Rosie's Stakes with Four Wheel Drive earlier in the evening. “He was comfortable, and he was taking me (along) pretty good. I knew I had a lot of horse. I could have gone whenever I wanted to. He was doing so good for this race. Graham (trainer Motion) had him perfect. In mid-stretch I really thought someone was going to close that much because we pretty were slow, but my horse dug in and fought to the end.”
“I've had a couple of tough beats (in this race) over the years,” said Motion. “This is a tough little horse. He's really deserving. He always shows up. It's great to be here with a big crowd on an exciting night. Great racing. He's had a long season. He tries so hard. We might get one more race into him before the end of the year. He ran huge tonight.”
The Virginia Derby was the second stakes win for English Bee, who won the James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico in May. The $150,000 winner's share more than doubled his career earnings to $282,150 while bettering his overall mark to four wins, one second and one third from nine starts. He paid $6, $3.40 and $2.80.
Jais's Solitude ($3.40 and $3) rallied from far back to get the place spot a half-length to the good of Credit Swap ($3.60). Tracksmith, Critical Data, Changi, Solidify and Shootin the Breeze completed the order of finish.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam presented the Virginia Derby trophy in the Winner's Circle to the victorious connections.
'Colors' Fly High in the Oaks
One race earlier, Godolphin's Carnival Colors rallied three-wide in the stretch and drew off to a 1¼-length score in the $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Virginia Oaks to give trainer Mike Stidham his second stakes tally of the night – earlier in the evening he won the $100,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten's Joy Stakes with Doc Boy. Forest Boyce was aboard the Distorted Humor filly who ran a mile and an eight in 1:48.83.
The English-bred Carnival Colors was coming into the race off a troubled fourth after breaking slowly in the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen at Woodbine in her last start.
“Definitely the mile and an eighth (distance of the Oaks) was what we were looking for,” Stidham said. “Last time at Woodbine she got off a little bit slow, and only going a mile she had no chance to make up the ground but I knew if she broke good today and put herself in the race that she was going to be tough to beat.”
“It worked out to be the perfect trip,” Boyce said. “She broke well which was what I was hoping for. A couple of them went so we sat right behind them and bided our time. Luckily I had plenty of horse to finish with.”
The Virginia Oaks was the first stakes win for Carnival Colors, whose best prior stakes run was a second in the Grade 3 Mazarine at Woodbine. Overall, she sports a record of three wins from six starts. She earned $90,000 to boost her bankroll to $160,764.
Carnival Colors paid $17.20, $7.80 and $5.60. Mercilla returned $5.60 and $3.40. It was another 1¼ lengths back to Solar Kitten who paid $4.80. Zonda, Ionic, Tasting the Stars, Agi's Cait and Gardenista completed the order of finish.
Through the investment of the Colonial Downs Group, a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, Colonial Downs has experienced a racing revival for the 2019 season, and Saturday's program will feature the return of the Derby and the Oaks after a six-year hiatus.
“We are greatly honored by the remarkable display of Thoroughbred racing for our fans tonight as we made a significant step in building a longstanding tradition for the New Kent County Virginia Derby and the Fasig Tipton Virginia Oaks,” said John Marshall, Colonial Downs Executive Vice President. “We greatly enjoyed the outstanding performances by Four Wheel Drive and Doc Boy in our 2-year-old stakes, along with Carnival Colors in the Oaks and culminating with English Bee battling to the wire to defeat Jais's Solitude in the Virginia Derby. We also were delighted that Governor Northam joined us for the evening's festivities, and we extend our thanks and our warmest respects to all horsemen who participated tonight, and to the hundreds of workers at Colonial Downs who helped put on a great show.”
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