Kentucky Derby weekend is finally here! The 148th running of the country’s most popular horse race — the “Run for the Roses” — is Saturday May 7 at 6:57 PM. The action at Churchill Downs starts way before that though on both Kentucky Oaks Day (Friday May 6) and on Derby Day. First post both days is 10:30 AM.
Advance Derby wagering is available Friday at any VA-Horseplay Off Track Betting Center in Henrico (Breakers Sports Grille) and Chesapeake (Buckets Bar & Grill), at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, New Kent, Vinton, Collinsville, Hampton and Dumfries, and online via TVG.com, Xpressbet.com, Twinspires.com and NYRABets.com. Virginia Gold Cup attendees at Great Meadow will also be able to wager the big race following the steeplechase race action.
Fans of Virginia racing will want to take notice of several horses competing under the Twin Spires this weekend that have ties to the Commonwealth.
Hidden Connection, a 3-year-old filly trained by Bret Calhoun, is one of 14 fillies in the $1,250,000 Oaks (Gr. I) Friday. The daughter of Connect won a maiden special weight race at Colonial Downs August 17 in a dominating performance, winning by 7 1/2 lengths while just missing a track record time at the 5 1/2-furlong distance. After leaving New Kent, she went on to capture the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill and most recently finished second in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Heading into weekend action, Hidden Connection has earnings of $399,525.
Barber Road, a 3-year-old son of Race Day, kicked off his racing career last summer at Colonial, taking a respectable fourth in a maiden special weight race August 3. The John Ortiz trainee has top three finishes in five different stakes races since including a second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and a third in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. In 2022 alone, he has bankrolled $550,000 from four starts. Barber Road is #14 in the 20-horse Derby field.
Virginia-Certified Just One Time will compete on the impressive Derby Day under card in a Grade 1 event — the $750,000 Derby City Distaff. The 4-year-old Not This Time filly is the 3-1 early favorite and will be ridden by Flavien Prat. Prior to the start of her racing career, she spent six months in Virginia at Woodberry Payne’s Ingleside Training Center at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange. Her stats to date are quite impressive — 6 wins in 7 starts, good for $525,195 in earnings. Check her out in Race 8 Saturday with a post of 2:48 PM.
Tejano Twist is another Bret Calhoun trainee who was based on the Colonial Downs backstretch last summer and was most impressive in a pair of starts. The 3-year-old Practical Joke gelding won a maiden special weight August 3 — the same race Barber Road finished fourth in — and followed that with a tight second in the Exacta Systems Rosie’s Stakes on Virginia Derby Day. Joe Rocco Jr., co-leading rider at the 2021 New Kent meet, rode both and will be up top again in Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Pat Day Mile. A field of 12 will go to post in Race 7 at 1:56 PM.
2021 Da Hoss and Chesapeake Stakes winner Just Might will face 12 other foes in Friday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint carded as Race 10 at 4:51 PM — the race before the Kentucky Oaks. Just Might’s trainer Michelle Lovell, along with Bret Calhoun, was based in the Colonial backstretch for the first time ever last summer and was rewarded with Just Might’s two big stakes efforts — one on dirt and the other over the Secretariat Turf Course. The 6-year-old Justin Phillip gelding can become a million-dollar earner with a win Friday. He has bankrolled $855,789 from 35 starts entering the Sprint.