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Mike previews the 2022 Dueling Grounds Derby (G3) at Kentucky Downs, then gives his top picks and longshots. Ready to Purrform is favored to win this tough stakes after winning the Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) gate to wire at Saratoga, but what price horse does Mike like? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Graded-stakes winners Grand Sonata and Ready to Purrform head an overflow field for Sunday’s $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby on the third day of racing at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. The 1 5/16-mile turf race will be run as a Grade 3 stakes for the first time.
Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Edgewood winner New Year’s Eve, a good third in the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks in her last start, and Turnerloose, a stakes-winner on turf and dirt, headline the co-featured $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks on the 11-race card. Also in the Dueling Grounds Oaks is California Angel, who won her debut at Kentucky Downs last year and went on to take Keeneland’s Grade 2 Jessamine.
First post Sunday is 12:25 p.m. Central, with the DG Oaks carded as the ninth race (4:57 p.m. CT approximate post) and the DG Derby the 10th (5:31 p.m. CT).
Trainer Todd Pletcher will try to win the Dueling Grounds Derby for the third time with Whisper Hill Farm’s Grand Sonata, winner of the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy and another turf stakes at Gulfstream Park over the winter. While he didn’t fare well in his last start in the Saratoga Derby (G1), Grand Sonata finished fourth – losing by a total of a length at 32-1 odds — in the Belmont Derby (G1) the race before.
Donegal Racing’s Ready to Purrform, trained by Brad Cox, comes into the Dueling Grounds Derby off victory in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes.
Others in the overflow field of fourteen 3-year-olds: Churchill Downs’ Audubon winner Kitodan; stakes-placed Double Clutch, a competitive fifth in the Hall of Fame; Running Bee, winner of a 1 3/16-mile maiden race at Saratoga in his last start; Texas Turf Mile winner Red Run, who was fourth in last year’s Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile; Dripping Gold, coming out of a narrow allowance defeat at 1 3/16 miles at Saratoga; stakes-placed Speaking Scout; Mountaineer Park allowance winner Russian Tank; and maiden winners Tallahatchiebridge (owned by Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader Ken Ramsey and Sarah Ramsey Stable), Always Above and Mount Rundle.
Western River, winner of a 1 1/2-mile Churchill Downs allowance on dirt, and Camp David, an Indiana allowance winner on dirt, need defections by 9 a.m. CT Sunday to run.
The 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Oaks attracted the capacity field of 12 in the body of the race, with the maximum four more horses on the also-eligible list needing scratches by 9 a.m. Sunday to compete. Two other entries were excluded and did not make the overnight sheet when entries were taken and post positions drawn Tuesday.
The Cox-trained Turnerloose won last year’s Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies by five lengths, then finished third as the heavy favorite in Keeneland’s Jessamine. She started her 3-year-old season on dirt in New Orleans’ prep series for the Kentucky Oaks, winning the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra and finishing fourth in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) before taking seventh in the Kentucky Oaks. Back on turf after a freshener, Turnerloose was a close and fast-flying second in Ellis Park’s Centennial Turf Distaff against older fillies and mares in a change of plans after Churchill Downs canceled a scheduled turf stakes.
New Year’s Eve, trained by Brendan Walsh, was a good third in the Saratoga Oaks (G3) two races after taking the Edgewood. The George Leonard-trained California Angel competes for the first time since she was second in the March 12 Black Cat Lacombe Memorial at the Fair Grounds.
Others: Canterbury Park’s Curtis Sampson Oaks winner Schlofmitz, Ken and Sarah Ramsey Stable’s Beechnut Trophy (a daughter of the Ramseys’ Kentucky Downs stakes-winner Real Solution); Indiana Oaks (G3) third-place finisher Silverleaf; Woodbine’s Colleen (G2) runner-up Vergara; Indiana’s Horseshoe Indianapolis Stakes winner Heavenly Hellos; Woodbine’s Selene (G3) runner-up Catiche; Alcibiades (G1) runner-up Sequist; and Grade 2 stakes-placed Skims. Allowance winners Fancy Martini, Princess Pauline and Therearenorules, along with maiden-winner She’s Gone are on the also-eligible list.
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