Catching My Eye: Colonial Downs

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

July 23rd, 2022

Two weeks in at Colonial Downs, there have been some excellent efforts by some under-the-radar horses who have some interesting options ahead of them. Definitely a few in here you want to add to your stables. The turf course has been lauded by all the jockeys as they come off it, and winners have been coming from off the pace going two turns. The dirt course has seen a ton of frontrunners wiring the field.

Monday, July 18

The Argentine Group 1 winner Didia came to Colonial Downs with form but could she translate that to North American racing? A big yes. She seems to be a push-button horse, as jockey Vincent Cheminaud maneuvered her at will and surged to win with perfect timing. Positioning behind the frontrunner through the first half of the race, then having to work around a keen horse who ran up on her outside, Cheminaud settled her slightly through the turn, then shifted out a lane wider looking for more daylight in the stretch. She fought off the Brendan Walsh horse, Keeper of Time, who was ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., and passed the game leader, who had walked out front, in the final stages. Earning a nice speed figure, trainer Nacho Correas has an interesting five-time-winning filly on his hands who has won at four route distances: one mile, as well as 1 1/16, 1 1/8, and 1 1/4 miles.

Monday had a competitive second-level allowance going two turns on the turf, and there were two horses that caught my eye. The winner, Hot Blooded, won the race, though he was running near the front throughout, and few horses have been winning in that position through the first two weeks. Hot Blooded was keen to be near the front, saving ground throughout until tipping off the  rail to pass the short-priced leaders and holding off any real bids from the competitive field. He is a four-time winner and now has won two stakes.

Last out on synthetic, there was trip trouble he was able to overcome, and he showed the ability to close. Tactical options, class, an interesting horse moving forward.

King Vega caught my eye as well, though finishing second to Hot Blooded. He looked great winning two back, and on Tuesday he was able to work out a nice ground-saving trip stalking in the rear. But when it came time to rocket home in the stretch run, this Lope de Vega four-year-old trained by Graham Motion had no lane. What did he do? Split horses fearlessly, somehow not clipping heels, but exchanging bumps with the outside foe. I love this game effort and always want to know when a horse shows that competitive edge he needs to win in tough spots.

Back after a long absence from the winner's circle, Michelle Lovell’s Change of Control showed that same hard-trying run like she does time in and time out. Facing easier company than the Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes last out, Change of Control needed things to go her way for a change. She suffered from bad racing luck in her first two races of the year, then ran into stout fields at Keeneland, Churchill, and Belmont. Earning another strong speed figure proves that as long as she is placed appropriately, Change of Control is a deserved favorite, and no doubt will have another graded stakes win under her belt before the year is over. 

The day started with Two Phil’s winning on second asking. Larry Rivelli’s two-year-old showed a nice progression in speed figures, running the fastest opening and closing 1/4s of the field. He beat a live group containing trainees from Steve Asmussen, Todd Pletcher, and Michael Trombetta. By Hard Spun, and Kentucky Derby-runner General Quarters is the grandsire, so there’s a chance this just isn’t another precocious Rivelli horse—the quality could be sustained into the three-year-old season.

Tuesday, July 19

Lovell’s three-year-old turf sprinter, Margie’s Kitchen, proved she could follow in Change of Control’s stakes-winning footsteps. Beating first-level allowance company after finishing second in a stakes that was taken off the turf at Churchill last out, this Daredevil three-year-old took matters into her own hands from the opening gates, jumping out to the lead and never looking back. Winning easy on the lead brings its questions—was she pressured? Can she pass?—but after seeing her debut win at Fair Grounds, where she settled and passed with a big kick, you know she simply has talent, intelligence, and, of course, one of the best turf sprint trainers in the circuit.

In Golden Hornet’s first run, Rivelli has him ready to rock 'n’ roll. No surprise about that, but this Flatter colt went the fastest through all calls and popped a big figure in his three-year-old debut. A New York-bred, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rivelli run through his conditions in statebred company at Saratoga this summer. The $260,000 purchase is owned by Carolyn Wilson.

Wednesday, July 13

Danse Macabre won on second-asking on Wednesday, beating a strong field of two-year-olds. First go, at Churchill this spring, she lost to Summer Promise, who went up to Saratoga and was sent off as the favorite in the Schuylerville (G3), but finished second to Just Cindy.

Kelsey Danner has been sending out winners early in the meet, and this two-year-old by Army Mule beat a stiff field with entries from Michael Stidham, Motion, Correas, and Rivelli.