Orchard Park takes Va. Derby

Favorite `Dash' 1 1/2 back

Prado haunting Espinoza

July 14, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

NEW KENT, Va. - Five weeks ago in the Belmont, aboard a 70-1 unknown named Sarava, Edgar Prado dashed California jockey Victor Espinoza's hopes of winning the Triple Crown with War Emblem.

Yesterday, Prado bested Espinoza again, this time in the $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Riding the Bill Mott-trained Orchard Park, Prado crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Espinoza and his mount, the Neil Drysdale-trained Flying Dash.

Espinoza's horse in both races was the favorite. Bettors climbed aboard Flying Dash, sending her into the 1 1/4 -mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies at 6-5. Prado's Orchard Park was 2-1.

FOR THE RECORD - In Sunday's editions, the $500,000 Virginia Derby, contested Saturday at Colonial Downs in Virginia, was incorrectly reported to be a race only for 3-year-old fillies. The race actually was open to all 3-year-olds. The six horses in the race were colts or geldings.
The Sun regrets the errors.

The pair towered over their opposition on paper, and they also dominated on the track. It was 8 1/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Touring England.

In the Belmont, Espinoza had an excuse: War Emblem stumbled at the break and nearly fell. In the Virginia Derby, Espinoza offered no excuses, even though Flying Dash struggled around the first turn six-wide.

Flying Dash promptly dropped to the rail, saved ground and roared into contention around the far turn. Orchard Park was also floated wide around the first turn, but Prado steered her to the rail down the backstretch and snagged the lead around the final turn.

That set up a stretch duel between the two favorites, delighting the 7,991 patrons at this sun-baked track between Richmond and Williamsburg. Orchard Park proved best on this day.

"The other horse just kept going," Espinoza said of Orchard Park.

And Prado, typically modest, said of his mount: "She's a nice horse. I really like her."

Orchard Park paid $6 to win and headed an $11.80 exacta and $92.60 trifecta. Her time of 2 minutes, 3.1 seconds was the slowest of the five Virginia Derbys.

Drysdale made his way to remote Colonial Downs to saddle Flying Dash, but Mott remained in New York and sent his assistant, Leana Willaford. She disappeared back to the barn with her horse, leaving Peter Vegso center stage.

Vegso bred and owns Orchard Park. He also owns the Florida company that publishes the popular "Chicken Soup For The Soul" series.

"For some reason our horse has been underrated," Vegso said of Orchard Park. "This was a good test going a mile and a quarter. And the competition was good."

The competition will get better. Orchard Park's next assignment will be the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 17 at Arlington Park, Vegso said.

In the race following the Virginia Derby, Laurel-based Secret River upset the Frank Stronach-owned Golden Corona in the Grade III, $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup.

Trained by Larry Murray, bred by Sondra and Howard Bender and owned by Mrs. Bender, Secret River at 10-1 out-dueled the Stronach horse at 3-5 in a dramatic stretch battle.

Horatio Karamanos, Colonial Downs' leading jockey, rode Secret River expertly to the neck victory. Karamanos has been riding so well that Murray said: "That's why we came, because we could get him."

Stronach did not come, but his name was on many people's lips. He heads Magna Entertainment Corp., the racetrack conglomerate that is negotiating to buy Pimlico and Laurel Park from the Maryland Jockey Club. Announcement of the sale appears imminent.

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