Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Banned Leads the Virginia Derby Cast

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 15, 2011

Everyone loves a horse that can ignite his burners at the top of the stretch and burst away from the field with a turn of foot second to none, leaving his rivals reeling in his wake. Banned did just that in the American Turf Stakes on May 6th, rating well of the pace in ninth position before swinging to the outside in the home stretch, revving up for a few strides and then bounding past the field to romp under the line by 4 ½ lengths. Six weeks later he showed how versatile he could be when racing against a short field of just three opponents in the Jefferson Cup, rating no more than a length of Reboard on the front end. Taking over after a slow half in :49.31, Banned led the field into the homestretch and with a vigorous hand ride just a wave of the whip by jockey Jose Lezcano, Banned flew under the line two lengths in front.


Banned returns to action this Saturday in the Virginia Derby (gr.2) at Colonial Downs, and despite the strong field, he will go off as the comfortable favorite. The 1 ¼ mile race will be the first time Banned has run beyond 1 1/16 miles but with the skill he has demonstrated so far the distance doesn’t appear to be a big issue. Also, as a son of Kitten’s Joy who won the 2004 Virginia Derby, Banned has some pedigree to fall back on.


Street Game looks to be the biggest threat to Banned winning his third consecutive graded stakes. The 3-year-old son of Street Cry is on a three race win streak that started back on May 7th in a Belmont Park maiden race, and most recently concluded with a 7 ¼ length romp in the Hill Prince Stakes (gr.3). He has won his three races by a combined 20 lengths. It looks like he’s just started to hit his best stride, there’s a ton of potential with this colt.


Air Support was last seen finishing second to Street Game in the Hill Prince Stakes and before that third to Banned in the American Turf Stakes. In the American Turf Stakes he was only beaten a head for second and finished more than two lengths ahead of the fourth place horse. Needless to say he has run into monster efforts in his last two races and seems to be running behind the top two in terms of maturity and raw talent. On Sunday he turned in an excellent work on the inner turf course at Belmont, going five furlongs in 1:00.48. He is a two-time Grade 3 stakes winner on the turf and won the Transylvania Stakes (gr.3) at Keeneland before finishing third in the American Turf Stakes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move forward with a much better effort on Saturday.


Benergy won a maiden race by a nose on May 13th at Churchill Downs before finishing second to Banned in the Jefferson Cup Stakes in his last start.


Thirtyfirststreet enters off a neck victory in the Lone Star Derby after missing by less than a length in the Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park.


Crimson China won the Lamplighter Stakes in his last start, defeating his four rivals at Monmount Park by one length.


King Congie won the 1 1/8 mile Tropical Park Derby in early January before finishing third in both the Hallandale Beach and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Most recently he finished 7th in the Preakness Stakes. He’s had a good amount of experience running against classy fields so you can’t count him out and he appears to like the turf better than dirt. One thing I’m not crazy about is that he’s been trained on the dirt for this turf race.


Casino Host was last seen finishing 5th in the Hill Prince Stakes behind Street Game. This will be his 6th lifetime start and 5th this year and with only a maiden victory to his credit it appears he could be in a little over his head. His worst finish so far was the Hill Prince Stakes 5th place finish, before that he finished no worse than second, so he is consistent.


Waco Kid enters off a narrow allowance score at Calder and only broke his maiden three races back. It will take a giant leap for him to hit the board.


Newsdad has lost four straight races and his only victory is a maiden score at Gulfstream Park in lat January. He finished third in the Victoria Park Stakes during his most recent run.


Watch Me Go hasn’t run since a horrible 18th place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 7th. He won the Tampa Bay Derby in true upset style in early March but both subsequent starts have resulted in off the board finishes. His latest work, though on dirt, was an impressive five furlong move he completed in :59.60.


It looks like Banned, Street Game and Air Support are a ways ahead of most of this field right now. Banned is easily the best horse going in and I think will emerge the same, but you never can tell.


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