Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from a huge Saturday of racing at Virginia’s Colonial Downs headlined by the Arlington Million and the $500,000 Beverly D. Stakes, both Grade 1 contests on Saturday, as well as other major developments.
LAST TO FIRST: Jockey Florent Geroux allowed Juddmonte’s homebred Set Piece to settle at the back of the 11-horse pack for the opening mile of the 1 ¼-mile Arlington Million before giving the son of Dansili his cue. Set Piece responded with a tremendous seven-wide move to topple last year’s Million victor Santin by two lengths in a course and stakes record of 1:58.19 at Colonial Downs. The previous stakes record of 1:58.69 had been set by Awad at Arlington Park in 1995. Katie Tolbert, assistant to trainer Brad Cox, said of the horse’s first Grade 1 win: “It’s awesome for us. He just hit $1 million [in purse earnings] in his last race and that was a big steppingstone for him.” Set Piece’s career earnings now stand at $1,684,733.
FRONT-RUNNING VICTORY: When trainer Mark Casse and jockey Javier Castellano flew together to Colonial Downs Saturday morning, Casse noted a lack of speed in the Beverly D. Stakes as well as Fev Rover’s versatility. Castellano took over from there. He urged Fev Rover out of the starting gate to take control early and was dominant late in a 3 ½-length decision that secured an automatic, fees-paid berth for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf for owner Tracy Farmer. “She could be pushing to be a really good horse,” Casse said. “She shows up every time.”
SARATOGA SENSATION: Casa Creed became a five-time winner at Saratoga Race Course when he scored a repeat victory in the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap. His dramatic late rally for jockey Luis Saez allowed him to overtake Annapolis by three-quarters of a length and secure a “Win and You’re In” berth in the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile presented by PDJF on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park. The 7-year-old, trained by Bill Mott, was running in the Fourstardave for the fourth time. He finished third in his first two cracks at the one-mile turf contest. “To run in four straight Fourstardaves, regardless of where you finish, is a ridiculous accomplishment. To win it two years in a row and win it today at 7 years of age, he’s remarkable,” said co-owner Lee Einsidler.
HOMETOWN VICTORY: With the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes being held at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., for the first time, what better way for it to end than for a Virginia-bred to be on top? Gigante, the 2022 Virginia-bred champion 2-year-old, pulled a giant 22.90-1 upset for trainer Steve Asmussen and Javier Castellano. Gigante broke his maiden at Colonial Downs and then routed seven opponents in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten’s Joy Stakes as a juvenile. He covered one mile on firm turf in the Secretariat in 1:35.10. “I just took my time and rode with a lot of patience, a lot of confidence, and had the best result,” Castellano said.
REMEMBER THE NAME: Pura Vida Investments’ Rhyme Schemes put on a memorable show in roaring off to a 9 ½-length tour de force in the Herb Moelis Memorial Saratoga Special Stakes for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and trainer Norm Casse. The son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper was making his third career start. “I knew the horse was very talented from the outset. I could tell that he had multiple gears underneath him,” Casse said. “That number was so big, it was hard to believe. I needed some more affirmation and I think we got it [Saturday].”