Prado rallies `Joy' to victory, takes 3rd straight Va. Derby

Surge in last half-mile wins $500,000 turf race

Horse Racing

July 11, 2004|By Ryan O'Halloran | Ryan O'Halloran,NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS

NEW KENT, Va. -Edgar Prado is the kind of world-class jockey who doesn't need much advice from a trainer. He knows the Colonial Downs turf course and he knows how to win the Virginia Derby.

But Dale Romans is a trainer, and sometimes trainers can't resist. So in the paddock area before the Grade III, $500,000 race yesterday, Romans gave Prado two subtle hints about Kitten's Joy: Don't move too early. And when Kitten's Joy turns it on, hang on.

Before 7,826 fans, Prado didn't panic when he was 13 lengths off the lead with a half-mile remaining in the 1 1/4 -mile race. And when he asked for some power out of Kitten's Joy, the 3-year-old colt obliged, thundering around the second turn and past favorite Artie Schiller for a 2 3/4 -length victory.

The win was Prado's third straight in the Derby and the richest ($300,000) for owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. It also cemented Kitten's Joy's status as the top 3-year-old turf horse in the nation.

"The only horse to beat him on the turf is Prince Arch and we've beaten him three out of four times," Romans said. "We have to be considered the best unless there's somebody on the West Coast."

Kitten's Joy, as the second favorite, ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 1.22 seconds and paid $5.40 to win. Artie Schiller was second, followed by Prince Arch, Lipan, Class Concern, Jane's Luck, Irish Laddie and No Place Like It.

Prado, who rode Birdstone to an upset win in the Belmont Stakes last month to spoil Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid and was Maryland's leading jockey in the '90s, won the first two Colonial Downs riding titles (1997 and '98).

"I'm just fortunate to ride nice horses the last three years," he said. "This is a beautiful place and has been really good to me. I'm always glad to come back to the place that helped me out at the beginning."

Said Romans: "I always feel good when I give Edgar a leg up. And when I heard about all the things he's done at this racetrack, I felt even better."

Romans, though, didn't feel great early in the race.

Not surprisingly, Jane's Luck sprinted to the lead.

Surprisingly, Oliver Castillo couldn't rein him in - Jane's Luck ran the first quarter in 23.57 seconds and the first half-mile in 47.30.

"I don't know where that horse was going - I guess he was trying to steal it," Romans said. "I was a little concerned until I looked at the board and saw how fast he was going. I told Edgar to use his judgment and do whatever he wanted - if the pace was slow, we would be close; if it was fast like it ended up, I was fine with him sitting back."

Around the second turn, Jane's Luck was fading and the favorites went to work. Richard Migliore urged Artie Schiller and he was followed by Prado.

Kitten's Joy was running inside of Artie Schiller, but with a traffic jam approaching, he had to veer outside. And after Kitten's Joy reacted negatively to the whip, Prado put the stick away.

"After we made our move, he followed and I thought I had him stuffed on the inside," Migliore said. "When I looked again, there he was on the outside and that's when I asked my horse to gear up."

Down the stretch, Artie Schiller held a slight lead but Kitten's Joy found the decisive gear, taking the lead for good with a half-furlong remaining. The finishing kick caught Romans' eyes.

"That was really impressive," he said. "It's a good horse he had to run down, maybe the best horse he's had to run down in his career and he was able to do it."

The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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