Sunday, July 19, 2009

Battle of Hastings Double Tough in VA Derby

Battle of Hastings Double Tough in VA Derby
Battle of Hastings outfinishes Straight Story to win the Virginia Derby.

In a carbon copy of last month's Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT), Battle of Hastings dug in late to head his rival Straight Story and win the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the Colonial Downs turf July 18.

Ridden patiently by Tyler Baze in the 1 1/4-mile test for 3-year-olds over soft going, Battle of Hastings came from well off the pace to get the better of Straight Story and Charles Lopez. He won in the final bob once again by by a head, the identical margin of victory he enjoyed in the June 20 Colonial Turf Cup. Take the Points, who had every opportunity while challenging from the rail for Edgar Parado, finished third, three-quarters of a length back in a terrific finish.

Morning-line favorite Nicanor, a full brother to Barbaro, was scratched the day before the race with a leg injury. As a result, fans went with Hold Me Back as the 8-5 choice. Hold Me Back, in his first appearance since a 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was also making his initial start on grass. He came up empty while finishing fifth.

The Great Britain-bred Battle of Hastings remains in the hunt for the $5-million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus that goes to any horse that can sweep the Colonial Turf Cup, the Virginia Derby, the Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park Aug. 8, and the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 7. The bonus is being offered by Jacobs Investments. Trainer Jeff Mullins, speaking from Hollywood Park, and owner Mike House were hedging on a commitment to the Secretariat, however.

Straight Story went to the early lead before settling into second as Affirmatif took the field of nine along through easy fractions of :23.27, :46.64, and 1:11.83 while in front comfortably. Straight Story engaged for the lead on the final turn and showed the way into the homestretch, getting away from Take the Points mid-stretch by 2 1/2 lengths and looking like a winner at that point. Straight Story shortened stride late and Baze, using left-handed urging, closed the gap on Battle of Hastings, who was five wide at the top of the stretch. As they drew close with 100 yards to the wire, Straight Story fought back tenaciously along the inside to just miss. The final time was 2:03.29.

"I had a perfect trip," said Baze, even though it appeared that he had to adjust his right stirrup right after the break when they fell back to eighth. "Two wide on the first turn, three wide down the back. I just waited; I waited even longer than I did the last time (in the Colonial Cup). Today was a matter of whether he could go a mile-and-a-quarter or not."

Baze said he knew he had the victory 50 yards from the wire.

"He's a very honest horse," the jockey added. "When it came time time, (Battle of Hastings) gave me all he's got. He's very special; he's an awesome horse."