Godolphin’s Silver Knott arrived at Colonial Downs Thursday morning around 3 a.m. following a nine-hour van ride from Saratoga Race Course. The British-bred son of Lope de Vega is the 3-1 second choice in the morning line for Saturday’s Grade 2 $500,000 Secretariat Stakes which is being held in Virginia for the first time as part of the inaugural Colonial Downs Festival of Racing.
“We got in this morning from Saratoga after a fun nine-hour ride down,” said Chris Connett, assistant to Silver Knott’s trainer Charlie Appleby. “Charlie’s motto always is to try to get the best chance possible, to get down here nice and early and get him climatized to his surroundings. We’ll get to the track (Friday) morning and have a bit of a canter around and get a feel of it then go out and do it a little bit Saturday morning as well – and hopefully run a big race.”
Silver Knott has made three starts this year – the two most recent at Belmont Park, finishing third in the G2 Pennine Ridge in June and fifth in the G1 Belmont Derby the following month.
“I think the two races he’s run in the Pennine Ridge and the Belmont Derby, he’s in and around that (top) level so even though the class is down to a Grade 2 (in the Secretariat) there’s still going to be tough horses in there,” Connett said, “but we think from his work and off of that form, he should be a player. He was very close in the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Turf, finishing second beaten just a nose) last year and if we can bring that form back, we’ll be right in amongst it.
“There seems to be a bit of pace in the race and if we can break handily and just get a nice rhythm, I’m sure Jamie (jockey Spencer) will be able to do that and pick up the pieces from there. He’s a tough horse. And we’d like to think he’s up to winning at this kind of level.”
FAVORED NAGIRROC READY FOR SECRETARIAT ASSIGNMENT
The connections of Secretariat Stakes morning line choice Nagirroc, Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and William Strauss, are looking for redemption after their charge was beaten as the 8-5 favorite in the G3 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park last month, finishing third in that one-mile turf test.
“Graham (trainer Motion) has been pointing to this race for a while,” said Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing. “He’s coming into the race in great shape. We thought he was a little too keen last time out and they went pretty fast early on. We expect a good race with a good stalking trip. Flavien (jockey Prat) is riding amazing right now.”
CORREAS LOOKIING FOR NORTH AMERICAN GRADE 1 GLORY FOR DIDIA
Beverly D. Stakes morning line favorite Merribelle Stable’s Didia, a Grade 1 winner in Argentina, was unable to duplicate that in her only United States start at that level, finishing a good second in the G1 New York Stakes in her last start.
“She is doing very well coming into this race and it has been a race we have been pointing to for the season,” said trainer Ignacio Correas, IV. “We know it isn’t always an easy task, but she is a G1 winner in her native Argentina and we are trying to get her one here in America, too.”
The Argentine-bred daughter of Orpen won her four previous U.S. starts including two over the Colonial Downs turf course last season as well as a score in the G3 Modesty Stakes at Churchill Downs in May.
CASSE TO SADDLE THREE FOR FESTIVAL
Dual hall-of-fame trainer Mark Casse has a string at Colonial Downs for the first time ever but his biggest chance for glory at the Colonial Downs Festival of Racing comes from a horse shipping in from Saratoga who has made the bulk of her starts the last two years at Woodbine in Canada. That horse is the Irish-bred Tracy Farmer’s Fev Rover, the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Grade 1 $500,000 Beverly D. Stakes to be run here on Saturday over 1 3/16 miles on the turf.
She was an easy winner in the G2 Nassau Stakes at Woodbine in Canada on July 1 but in her most recent start two weeks later at Saratoga, the 5-year-old mare finished third in the G1 Diana, beaten only a half a length.
“Obviously her race at Woodbine was extremely good as was her race at Saratoga,” Casse said. “She drew inside (there) as she did again (here) which is a little disappointing. (In her last,) it was four against one. Chad (trainer Brown) had four in there. We had the one. We got stuck behind a slow pace. I thought Flavien (jockey Prat, aboard the victorious Whitebeam) did a great job of keeping us boxed in. When (Fev Rover) finally did get out, she came with a run and was probably finishing better than anybody at the end. I was proud of her. She ran a good race. She comes to play every time.”
Casse has two starters for the Million – Gary Barber and Kinsman Stable’s Strong Quality and Live Oak Plantation’s Win for the Money.
“I thought (Strong Quality) ran really well last time in the Manhattan,” Casse said. “He missed some time and probably wasn’t at his very best. He comes into this race on top of his game, so I expect a big effort from him.”
As far as Win for the Money Casse said: “We’re (already) there. Obviously, this is a big step up for him. But he’s a talented horse. Even though he got DQ’d that one time (in April at GP) he’s two-for-two (as far as first through the line) on the turf. I think he’ll run well. We’ll see how he fits in. It’s a tall task but he does have a bit of a home field advantage.”