Since its inception in 1998 the Grade 2 Virginia Derby has been a producer of future turf stars. Winners include Kitten’s Joy, English Channel, Go Between, Red Giant, Gio Ponti and Paddy O’Prado.
The 2011 edition of the race stands a chance of providing a winner that deserves to be mentioned with the above horses.
Banned (Kitten’s Joy x Cardinalli by Capote) is favored at 5-2 for trainer Thomas Proctor and jockey Jose Lezcano. I was able to watch his last win in the Jefferson Cup from a suite at Churchill Downs and man did he look impressive. This horse is incredibly good looking and incredibly fast as well. He could be tough, but with so many good horses I’m going to swing against.
The horse that interests me the most is Air Support (Smart Strike x Gaze by Danzig) at odds of 6-1. He ran huge to win the Transylvania in his first start of 2011. After that he was third behind Banned in the American Turf Stakes and then second to Street Game in the Hill Prince. The Shug McGaughey trainee could turn the tables on those horses today because of the extra ground the Virginia Derby offers. I’m not sure McGaughey had him sharp for the Hill Prince, but the colt should be on full tilt this time. The works are strong and I like him as my top pick.
It should come as no surprise that Street Game (Street Cry x Thunder Achiever by Thunder Puddles) is my second choice given my fondness of Air Support. The son of Street Cry dominated the Hill Prince last out even after the jockey lost the whip. He is bred to go long and could have a tactical advantage being on or near the pace. He is decent value at 4-1. The sky is the limit on his potential.
Newsdad (Arch x Storm Tracer by Pulpit) is an interesting long shot at 15-1. He ran strongly to be a close fourth in the Bluegrass Stakes three back, but since then was up the track in the Peter Pan and off the board in a $150k ungraded race at Woodbine. He should thrive returning to the grass and getting extra ground too. I wouldn’t leave him off my multi race exotic tickets.
My Pick 4 ticket beginning in the Virginia Oaks is listed below. It is an $18 play. You can bet it as well as my top pick Air Support at 6-1 win odds at Twin Spires.