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NEW KENT, VA – Winning for the first time in the U.S. since leaving his native France last year, Madaket Stables LLC’s Wootton Asset extricated himself from traffic moving around the far turn, took command in the stretch, then held off a late rally from Slicked Back to win Tuesday’s $250,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby (G3) at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia.
Trained by H. Graham Motion and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Wootton Asset – a 3-year-old colt by Wootton Bassett – finished 3/4 of a length to the good of the Brad Cox-trained Slicked Back and jockey Fernando De La Cruz.
It Can Be Done finished another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, and he was followed by Hidden Energy, 2/1 favorite Experienced, Indian Lake, Draft Capital, Doubleoseven, Eye of the Cat, and Search for Truth.
Time for the 1 1/8 miles on a firm turf course was 1:46.79.
Wootton Asset paid $11.20 to win as the second choice in the wagering.
Wootton Asset, making his sixth start in the U.S. since last October, saved ground early while racing in seventh position as Indian Lake established a moderate early pace, with fractions of :23.96, :48.13 and 1:11.24 for the opening 6 furlongs.
Rounding the far turn, Ortiz angled Wootton Asset to the outside from a tight spot along the rail and went five-wide into the stretch. He seized the advantage just outside of the 1/8 pole after a mile in 1:34.76 and was never seriously challenged by the late run of Slicked Back.
Stewards lit the inquiry sign and Slicked Back’s jockey De La Cruz lodged a claim of foul against the first-place finisher alleging that Wootton Asset interfered with him when he angled off the rail and into his path.
Stewards allowed the original order of finish to stand.
“I knew what I was doing out there,” Ortiz said of the foul claim. “Fernando was running out of horse at the three-eighths pole. He didn’t have enough horse to keep me in there so I just went on. I never made contact with him. If we did it was very slight brush. My trip was great. My position on the backside is where I won the race. I just had a lot of horse. He did his job. The horse moved very smooth on the grass. I really like this turf course.”
“Jose was pretty confident (that the result would stand),” said Motion. “He just had a lot of horse. He’s a cool horse and he finally got his good ground. He hasn’t done much wrong since he’s been here. He came to this country to run on firm ground which is what he got today.”
In the companion race for 3-year-old fillies, G. Watts Humphrey Jr. homebred Flippant took advantage of a quick pace to rally from far back and win the $150,000 Woodford Reserve Virginia Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths under Rafael Bejarano.
Invincible Gal finished second under Jose Ortiz, with Gold for Kitten and jockey Joe Rocco third.
The gray 3-year-old filly by Tapit out of Frivolous, by Empire Maker, was winning her third consecutive race for trainer Victoria Oliver. She ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.47, establishing a new course record. Flippant paid $6.60 to win as the favorite.
Bejarano allowed Flippant to settle near the back of the 12-filly field as Belle Belisa carved out quick fractions of :23.31, :46.35 and 1:10.20. With just over a 1/4-mile left to run, Fliippant still had her work cut out for her while racing in 11th position. She split horses at the top of the stretch and gradually wore them all down, drawing clear in deep stretch.
“The first time I rode her I didn’t know a lot about her,” Bejarano said. “This is the kind of filly that likes to come from behind. She likes to get settled and relax. She has a better turn of foot. I learned my lesson. My strategy was to have her in a good position right behind the speed to make one move from the three-eighths or half-mile, wherever she was ready. There was a lot of pace in my race which was good. I had to wait a little in the stretch and when I was clear she came flying.”
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