FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sunday, September 10, 2017) -- Drayden Van Dyke, who grew up in Kentucky but has found his career as a jockey in California, celebrated his 23rd birthday Sunday by winning the $350,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby aboard the front-running Big Bend, who staved off Parlor by three-quarters of a length.
The race played out in straightforward fashion as the Tom Proctor-trained Big Bend led at every call and turned back two challengers. Capture the Glory tracked in second before making a serious run at the leader in the far turn, only to quickly retreat. Just as that happened, Parlor, ridden by Julien Leparoux, made a six-wide move coming out of the turn and came to Big Bend in upper stretch. But the son of Union Rags kept running and prevailed after 1 5/16 miles in a time of 2:11.57.
Bronson, who was in third position through most of the race, finished third, beaten two lengths for all of it. He was followed across the finish line by Holiday Bonus, Gorgeous Kitten, Hollow Point, Society Beau and Capture the Glory. Giant Payday, Muggsamatic and Watch Me Whip were scratched.
“First time I’d ridden this horse. Tom Proctor said there’s really no speed,” Van Dyke said. “The 11 horse (Capture the Glory) was the only one who had speed. They gave it to us, his ears went up and that basically was the whole trip. I kind of coaxed him along, let him breathe. Turning for home, you know how that hill is, you really don’t want to ask going up the hill. So once I got over that hill and started going down, I got to ask him and he really kicked in. And he stayed kicked in. He kept going. He really fought hard once that horse came next to him. Give all the fight to the horse.
“The only time I saw any other horses was when that horse came along next to me. He was there for a few strides, and my horse stuck his head out for the rest of the way. Proctor said, ‘If he breaks running, get an easy lead, that’s a plus for us. If one of them gets stupid, just either sit behind or get outside and just track them.”
Big Bend, a son of Union Rags owned by Union Rags Racing, won a 1 1/2-mile allowance race at Delaware Park in his last start. He’s now 3-1-1 in 10 starts, earning $267,510. Proctor kidded around with reporters but walked off without answering questions.
Parlor also had been second in last year’s Kentucky Downs Juvenile.
“Big race,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally. “Julien told me maybe the distance was a little bit far for him. I didn’t realize he actually put his head in front at the eighth pole. But he said the last sixteenth of a mile he just kind of evened out and couldn’t actually go by the leader. So he ran a good race. No excuses. The winner ran a good race.”
Kentucky Downs had topped in less than four days its all-sources betting record set last year for the five-date meet of $22,540,761.22. By the time Sunday’s 10-race card had concluded, a total of $24,567,471.37 had been wagered, with Thursday’s closing-day card still to be run.
“We have had an amazing weekend of racing,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “Betting $24.5 million in four days shows that the horseplayers around the country love our turf racing.”
The total of $6,044,717.15 was wagered on Kentucky Downs Sunday, up 35 percent on the corresponding date last year ($4,487,790). That $6 million is the second-highest in track history, topped by Saturday’s $8,487,323.