Kitodan, ridden by Gerardo Corrales, wins the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs
Reserved off the pace early, Kitodan unleashed a strong outside rally through the stretch and won the $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby (G3) in a 20-1 upset Monday at Kentucky Downs.
Gerardo Corrales guided the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Point of Entry colt to a four-length triumph in the 1 5/16-mile event. The victory marked the first in a graded stakes for the runner trained by Eric Foster, whose Foster Family Racing co-owns him with Douglas E. Miller, and William J. Wargel.
Final time was 2:15.41 on turf rated as good.
Double Clutch set the early tempo of :25.63, 52.29, 1:17.62 and 1:43.47 for a mile as Kitodan relaxed in ninth then seventh in the 12-horse field. Between rivals on the turn, he angled out nearing the quarter pole, and was ready to run with a shake of the reins.
Grand Sonata was second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Mount Rundle. Favorite Ready to Purrform, who stalked from second early, faded and finished sixth.
Kitodan, who returned $43.48, earned his fifth win from eight starts this year and third stakes, including the Audubon Stakes at 40-1 odds against 3-year-olds June 4 at Churchill Downs. In April at Turfway Park he captured the Rushaway Stakes for trainer Mike Maker, then was claimed by Foster for $80,000 out of a third-place finish in an allowance-optional claiming race May 16 on the Churchill turf. He came into Monday’s race after finishing fifth in the Evan Williams Turf Mile Stakes August 7 at Ellis Park but was ready for a top effort in the Dueling Grounds Derby.
Foster said that after worrying all week about the weather and turf course, he knew Kitodan was ready.
“This is the second time we’ve got to run him on the turf against 3-year-olds and he’s getting stronger,” said Foster, who also won his first graded stakes and a Trace Adkins-signed guitar trophy that goes to the winners of Kentucky Downs’ graded stakes.
“He’s a nice horse,” Corrales said of Kitodan. “I had a lot of confidence in my horse. When I put him in the clear, I had a lot of horse. Lot of class. He’s a nice 3-year-old. No trouble. Once I put him in the clear, he was fantastic.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione said of runner-up Grand Sonata’s performance: “I was really proud of his effort today. I got in tight a couple of times but he never shied away. It’s a shame the winner got away from us because he did run such a good race.”
The winner’s share of the lucrative purse was $432,450, boosting Kitodan’s lifetime bankroll to $779, 641.
Kitodan was bred by Flaxman Holdings Limited. His dam is the A.P. Indy mare Divine Presence. Lane’s End sold him to Daniel Silva for $9,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Foster hopes to add to his graded stakes tally Saturday with Johnny Unleashed in the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint (G2) and $62,500 claim Recoded in the $1 million Mint Ladies Sprint (G3).
Monday’s card also include the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks, which was won by Vergara in a thrilling finish with Skims, the runner-up by a head.
A 3-year-old Noble Mission filly trained by Graham Motion for owner Gary Broad, Vergara was ridden by Joel Rosario and finished the 1 5/16-mile trip in 2:14.95.
California Angel was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Skims, and New Year’s Eve was fourth in the 11-horse field.
Vergara sat just behind pacesetter Turnerloose, who set opening fractions on the good turf course of :25.40 seconds and :50.67. Rosario guided Vergara to the front and slowed down the pace to 1:16.11 for six furlongs into the sweeping far turn, while Turnerloose stayed on as Beechnut Trophy and Skims ran into contention.
Leaving the turn, Skims loomed on the outside as Vergara cut the corner in a mile timed in 1:42.46. Skims got the best of a stubborn Turnerloose in mid-stretch, and from there it was an all-out tussle to the finish line.
Motion’s last stakes victory at Kentucky Downs came in 2017 with Miss Temple City in the Grade 3 Ladies Sprint, which then was worth $350,000.
Neil Jones bred Vergara in Kentucky from the Street Cry mare Figure of Beauty. With the Oaks victory, her second stakes win, her record improves to 3-1-2 from eight career starts. In her previous start, she finished second by a head in Woodbine’s Grade 3 Ontario Colleen.
The $291,200 winner’s share of the Dueling Grounds Oaks purse boosted Vergara’s lifetime earnings to $425,933.
She was a $130,000 purchase by Gary Broad/Walmac Farm from the Indian Creek consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Vergara returned $10,96.