The Exacta Systems Duelling Grounds Derby sounds off this Sunday as one of the final events of the weekend, and the three-year old field is shaping up to be a bit of a barn burner. A large field of 12 will take to the gates in what promises to be an interesting challenge. The 1 5/16th mile event is Race 9 at Kentucky Downs and is highlighted by a familiar name.
Mark Casse’s Airoforce will lead the fray as the 9/5 favorite in the Exacta Systems Duelling Grounds Derby after finishing as a runner-up in the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame Stakes. Having shown well in his juvenile season with wins at the Bourbon and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in 2015, Airoforce would finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His sophomore season, however, hasn’t gone according to plan. His sole showing in the Triple Crown was at the Belmont Stakes, where he placed 10th overall.
“He’s been running against the best 3-year-olds in North America for the most part and he’s run well,” Casse stated. “A couple times I thought he’s had some excuses, but at Saratoga I was proud of him. He ran great.” The dirt track hasn’t been all that friendly to Airoforce, who will now return to the turf where he’s had the most success.
Airoforce barrels in to this race with a bit of momentum, and his ocnnections seem willing to throw his Belmont run out the window. Prior to that race he placed second at the Penn Mile. Mark Casse is hoping a change up of surface will lead to bigger things.
“We’ve just figured out he’s a good turf horse,” the trainer continued. “I don’t know if there are any secrets. He also likes Churchill Downs fine. If I was ever going to run him on dirt again, it’ll be there.”
The main threat at the Exacta Systems Duelling Grounds Derby will be Oscar Nominated, the surprise winner at the Spiral earlier this year. The Michael Maker trainee finished a very disappointing 17th at the Kentucky Derby but has somewhat rallied in recent months. He’s placed 5th at both the Penn Mile and Secretariat Stakes, while finishing as the runner-up in the American Derby in early July.
To shape the field, it’s best to look at the third and fourth choices. Little Scotty is poised to be the upset specialist at 5/1 and is coming off of an allowance victory at Del Mar. The Kentucky born and trained three-year old out of Paddy O’Prado is certainly a miler worth considering as an outside shot. Manitoulin is taking his first stab at a stakes race after going 1-1-0 in seven starts during maiden special weights and allowances. He enters as a 6/1 fourth choice.
The Exacta Systems Duelling Grounds Derby field so divisive has truly just one worthy, hard line bet and that’s Airoforce. This will be an interesting test for the newly found turf specialist and if all goes according to plan, he’s the logical choice as a win bet. I like Little Scotty over Oscar Nominated and none of the longshots really tickle my fancies all that much.
Exacta Systems Duelling Grounds Derby – Kentucky Downs on Sunday, Sept. 11th (5:39pm EST)
1 5/16th Miles — 3 Year Olds — $350,000
|1||Cordon (KY)||Carlos H. Marquez, Jr.||118||Pavel Vashchenko||15/1|
|2||Crescent Drive (KY)||Joe Bravo||118||Thomas M. Amoss||15/1|
|3||Call the Colonel (KY)||Francisco C. Torres||118||Jon M. Cowan||30/1|
|4||Madtap (KY)||Shaun Bridgmohan||118||Steven M. Asmussen||15/1|
|5||Manitoulin (KY)||Corey J. Lanerie||118||James J. Toner||6/1|
|6||Path of David (KY)||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Kristin Mulhall||10/1|
|7||Trinitas Soldier (KY)||Declan Cannon||118||Joseph Deegan||30/1|
|8||Yo Carm (IL)||Robby Albarado||118||Chris M. Block||30/1|
|9||Little Scotty (KY)||Flavien Prat||118||Neil D. Drysdale||5/1|
|10||Airoforce (KY)||Julien R. Leparoux||124||Mark E. Casse||9/5|
|11||Oscar Nominated (KY)||Florent Geroux||122||Michael J. Maker||9/2|
|12||Nessy (KY)||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||118||Jimmy Corrigan||20/1|