VA DERBY: TURF CUP INSTANT REPLAY

After a patient ride from jockey Tyler Baze and a fast closing kick in the final quarter, Jeff Mullin’s Battle of Hasting’s (GB) (white bridle) landed his nose on the wire to take the $750,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. II) by a head at Colonial Downs on Saturday.

It looked an awfully lot alike his victory in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup Gr. II some three weeks ago.

Despite lacking early speed and travelling five wide around the final turn, the Royal Applause (GB) gelding was able to close the gap through the stretch and finish ahead of Straight Story, repeating the top two finish of the Colonial Turf Cup last month. Both wins at Colonial put Battle of Hastings in the running for the $5 million-plus Jacobs Investments Grand Slam of Grass Series for 3 year old turf horses. When asked if the gelding would continue on to the third leg, the Secretariat Stakes, owner Mike House said, “Whatever the horse is doing is what we’ll do. But, of course, we should think about it. We won’t make any decisions for a week or two.”

Alan Goldberg’s Straight Story, who moved up on the far turn and gained a clear lead entering the stretch, dug in and just missed at the wire for jockey Charles Lopez. “I think everything went right,” said Lopez of the race. “I gave him every opportunity to win. The other came and got him. Simple.”

Finishing third was Take the Points, a Todd Pletcher trainee who ran fourth in last month’s Turf Cup. After bumping Safety Valve while leaving the gate, Take the Points found himself in close quarters under jockey Edgar Prado leaving the far turn and hung at the sixteenth pole.

Lime Rickey, third place finisher in last month’s Turf Cup, lacked speed for jockey Cornelio Velasquez and raced six wide before rallying to fourth. Bill Mott’s Hold Me Back, who finished twelfth in the Kentucky Derby and had never run on turf, settled early but came up empty in the drive for regular rider Kent Desormeaux.

El Crespo weakened to fifth, while Affirmatif, Safety Valve, and Florentino rounded out the field.

(Photos by Coady Photography)