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Belmont Festival Fri.
Belmont Festival Thu.
Mike Smith aboard Arklow celebrates after his 15-1 upset of the American Turf (G2)
Kentucky Derby Day is the biggest card of racing at Churchill Downs. Before the main event, there were six graded stakes contested over the main track and turf course before the 158,070 fans who came out on Saturday. Due to the steady rain Thursday and Friday, the main track was sloppy initially, later upgraded to wet-fast, while the turf was good. In contrast to Oaks day the weather cooperated somewhat, with early light rain giving way to partly cloudy skies, some intermittent showers, and temperatures near 60.
Left: Roca Rojo in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Florent Geroux said, "I was right off the leader (Believe in Bertie). My filly was closer than she usually is. She likes to sit back and make one run, but there was a lack of pace in the race. I decided to put her closer and make sure I wasn't going to be trapped behind. Down the stretch, I thought I had it pretty easily, but the other filly tried to come back at her. My filly was the best."
Right: Roca Rojo heads to the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "She's been training really well. We knew she could handle the soft going. She's equally as good on firm. We were a little concerned about the pace and it played out that way. It was a soft pace with a very good horse setting the fractions, a really solid horse. She had her work cut out for her to run her down. We'll look at the Just a Game (G1), that makes a lot of sense, in five weeks at a mile at Belmont."
Left: Limousine Liberal in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "It was perfect. He broke and I used him a little bit to get my position. When I saw (Bluegrass Singer) go with Masochistic, my chances increased a lot because I was in a good spot. When we entered in the stretch, he responded very well. It was a great training job by Ben. He told me to just try to sit two lengths off Masochistic. That's what I did and it worked." Trainer Ben Colebrook added, "It set up for us. It kind of went according to plan for once. The plan was just to follow the two speed horses and try to pounce. We've been waiting to get a wet track and it worked out. This horse has been showing up every time. It's great that he's finally a graded-stakes winner."
Right: Second place finisher Awesome Slew returns to the unsaddling area. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "I got on the inside and thought for a minute I might get there and just missed a little bit. He ran a big race, especially considering he had an inside post position."
Left: Paulassilverlining in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "No special instructions from Chad. He said, ‘You know this filly; ride her like you know how.' She was extra game today but she's like that every time. She always shows up and gives her best. She showed up today." Trainer Chad Brown added, "She had no trouble with the track and Jose gave her a great ride. He got her off the rail early, put her in a stalking position and got the jump on everybody."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Finest City. Jockey Mike Smith said, "Great trip. She kind of slipped more than I'd hoped she would. We all have to run in it and some of them handle it better than others but that might have made a little bit of difference today. Every time I'd take two or three steps forward all of a sudden I was taking one back. She'd hit a little spot and then it'd be like starting all over again."
Arklow wins the American Turf (G2)
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Left: Arklow in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brad Cox said, " I saw a 1 1/8 maiden race at Keeneland on the grass opening weekend. He ran a big race that day and obviously this was a step up today. He had a great work here last weekend on the turf. It's only the second time he ran on the turf so I was really proud of him how well he ran today." Jockey Mike Smith added, "Brad said don't be afraid to get brave with him. If I got him clear, he said go ahead and let him start going a little early. He said he'd keep going and he was 100% right. Normally on the grass you want to wait and make one run. If I had done that, I probably would have lost the race."
Right: Beaten favorite and last place finisher Oscar Performance returns to be unsaddled. The 5-2 choice set the pace under Jose Ortiz but tired on the far turn to finish 10th beaten 15 lengths.
Left: Wild Shot in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Rusty Arnold said, "We tried the Derby trail and we just didn't like the two turns so we backed him up. His last work was brilliant and he'd done really well. We thought he'd like the slop. We weren't sure but we thought he would. They went so much faster than I thought they would but you just don't know on a sloppy track. He kept going and he'd run so fast the horses that chased him tired also." Jockey Corey Lanerie added, "I didn't know where I was going to be the first quarter. I went in with the mind-set to let my horse run his race. I just patiently let him do what he wanted to do. It was a dream ride. When I called on him (at the top of the stretch), he had plenty left."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite No Dozing in the post parade. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "A good race for him. He ran well. The winner was best today."
Left: Divisidero in the winner's circle. Trainer Buff Bradley said, "We were far back early, but that's how the horse runs. Julien said there wasn't much pace in there but I didn't want to take the horse out of his race. We know he likes to finish, even on a slow pace. I just told Julien 'you may just have to make your run earlier.' Julien is a great jockey so I don't have to tell him a whole lot. Derby Day has really been good to us. We're always happy to win on Derby Day before the biggest crowds."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Beach Patrol leading first time by. Jockey Florent Geroux said, "There was not much speed and my horse likes to be forwardly placed. I put him on the lead and it looked like there were comfortable fractions. He was really trying. He saw (Divisidero). I went left-handed a few times and just couldn't keep up with him. Divisidero was too fast for us today. He loves this turf course and does his best running here."
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