Horse racing: 17-1 long shot Line of David wins Arkansas Derby
AP Racing Writer
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Turns out Line of David digs the dirt.
The front-running colt won the $1 million Arkansas Derby by a neck on Saturday, propelling the 17-1 long shot into Kentucky Derby consideration after his debut on dirt.
Line of David had never before run in a stakes race and his last two victories were on the turf. His three races before those came on synthetic surfaces, although he has trained on dirt in Southern California.
Suddenly, trainer John Sadler has two prospects for the first Saturday in May, along with Sidney's Candy, who went gate-to-wire in winning last weekend's Santa Anita Derby. He's also aiming filly Crisp toward the Derby-eve Kentucky Oaks.
It was the biggest victory of veteran jockey Jon Court's career in his first time riding the colt. He departed Southern California last year after struggling on the super-competitive circuit and went to Kentucky and Oaklawn Park, but left an impression on Sadler.
"He was a good guy when he was there, and even though he's not riding there now, he left a good taste in my mouth," the trainer said.
It was the second stunning Derby prep result of the day. Stately Victor, a 40-1 shot, won the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland's synthetic surface.
Trainer Todd Pletcher's Super Saver was second on Oaklawn's dirt.
"This ought to really set him up well," said co-owner Bill Casner of WinStar Farm. "You've got to hand it to the winner. He just ran a monster race."
Dublin was another neck back in third for four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
"We're disappointed not to win, but I was pleased with the effort," he said. "I've always tried not to have my best race three weeks out. I've always felt like I needed to leave something. Having said that, I'd like to not have left that neck."
Uh Oh Bango was fourth, followed by 8-5 favorite Noble's Promise, who finished out of the money for the first time in eight career starts. New Madrid was sixth, Berberis seventh, Pulsion eighth and Lukas' other entry, Northern Giant, last.
"We got stopped at the start. We lost all chance," said Ken McPeek, who trains Noble's Promise. "He put himself in a bad position when he hopped at the start. We didn't get beat by much, but we never really had a chance because of the start."
Dublin and Noble's Promise were already guaranteed positions in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field based on their graded stakes earnings.
Line of David had zero such earnings until Saturday, because he had never before run in such prestigious company. He'd won just $62,000 in his career. The winner's share of $600,000 has him tied for fifth with Eskendereya.
Super Saver boosted his Derby case by earning $200,000, giving him $363,832.
Line of David ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:49.37 and paid $36.60, $14.80 and $6.80 to win the richest Kentucky Derby prep in the country. He's a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart.
Super Saver returned $6.20 and $4, while Dublin paid $3.60 to show.
Court guided Line of David to the lead out of the No. 8 post. They gained an inside position and opened a 3½-length lead at one point before Super Saver closed strongly to force a photo finish, leaving the crowd of 61,531 in suspense for a few minutes.
"When I called on him, he was full of run through the bridle and he fought very valiantly for the photo," Court said. "With John, one thing you can always count on is his horses are fit and ready, and a horse like that you can ride with confidence."
With only a third-place finish among his first three career races, Sadler made several changes with Line of David. He moved the colt to the turf, added blinkers to focus him, and altered his running style.
After all that, Sadler wanted to give Line of David his first shot in a dirt race to see if he liked it.
Did he ever.
"The guy I had getting on him this week said he was perfect on the dirt," Sadler said. "You never know until they do it, and we as trainers tend to be so conservative we always get surprised when they do succeed."
Line of David's victory gave Southern California-based colts a sweep of Oaklawn's major 3-year-old races. Conveyance won the Southwest and Lookin At Lucky took the Rebel.