AUBURN – Trainer Blaine Wright saw his dreams of winning the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby slip through his grasp the previous two seasons with Newfound Man and Zayda.
When the front-runners blazed away with wickedly fast early fractions, Wright and his 2013 entry in the Derby, Worldventurer, could almost taste victory despite being in the back of the pack.
The torrid fractions paved the way for Worldventurer and California-based jockey Julien Couton to fly home for a 7-length victory in Sunday’s 76th running of the Derby in Washington state. The win gave the 39-year-old Wright, whose trainer father Richard won it in 1982 when Cassaleria dead-heated with Flying Judgement at Longacres, his first Derby win.
“The only thing Blaine told me before the race was that his horse didn’t like to be on the inside,” said Couton, who flew in from Del Mar to ride the gray gelding for the first time. “Obviously, they went pretty fast for the lead, so we were able to get out on the backside and get him into a good cruising speed.
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“He obviously liked the distance. Hopefully, we can go farther.”
Worldventurer, owned by Peter Redekop, covered the 11
8-mile distance in 1 minute, 49.79 seconds and set up a date in the $150,000 B.C. Derby (Grade 3) on Sept. 8 at Hastings Park, outside Vancouver, B.C.
“We always believed this horse could get it done, but he doesn’t like to be inside horses, so we changed his strategy today,” said Redekop, a Langley, B.C. resident. “It paid off.”
Music of My Soul, the 4-5 favorite ridden by Isaias Enriquez, prompted an early speed duel, along with Finallygotabentley and Botch. The early leaders flew through splits of 21.80, 44.91, 1:09.98 and 1:36 before giving way to the closers.
“It was one of the worst races I’ve ever ridden,” Enriquez said. “I wanted the lead, but Juan [Gutierrez, aboard Finallygotabentley] wouldn’t give it to me, and we ended up going way too fast.”
The race is the championship for 3-year-olds at the Auburn racetrack.
The winner, who was the second choice in the wagering at almost 3-1, paid $7.80, $4.60 and $3.
“I told Julien I thought the race was going to be wicked fast,” Wright said. “Julien’s ridden a lot of winners for Mr. Redekop in Northern California. I didn’t have a problem with the way David Lopez had ridden him, but sometimes you just want to change things up.
“I had some good horses the last three years, and I thought they could win it. I am just lucky to have a horse like this in my hands.”
Valiant Flame, a 22-1 longshot, rallied from last in the field of six horses for second.
Worldventurer earned $35,750 for his fifth win in 15 career starts.
Out-of-town hopefuls Politicallycorrect and Mr. Bowling are already on the grounds in preparations for Sunday’s $200,000 Longacres Mile, which is the summer’s annual highlight at Emerald Downs. Trainer Vann Belvoir, formerly based at Emerald, has indicated that Gladding will ship up from Southern California for Sunday’s big race.