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DIVINE OATH TRANSCENDS ALL IN THRILLING AMERICAN DERBY
Let's Go Stable's Divine Oath drove between horses to an impressive victory in the Grade III $200,000 American Derby Saturday afternoon at Arlington International Racecourse. After a sharp break from the two-hole in the field of 10 starters, the son of Broken Vow sat patiently in sixth before passing five horses in the stretch to post an exciting half-length score for national leading trainer Todd Pletcher.
Ridden by meet-leading jockey Florent Geroux for the first time, the Kentucky-bred traveled the 1 3/16-miles distance in 1:56.50 over firm ground on Arlington's turf course after earlier fractions of 23.60, 48.54, 1:13.46 and 1:38.41 were set by outsider Ghostly Wonder and English shipper Our Channel. Sent off at 3.60-1, the public's second betting choice returned $9.20, $4.60 and $3.40, earning $114,000 to boost his career bankroll to $235,950. The American Derby was the colt's first stakes win in his third attempt and fifth career start.
"There was plenty of pace in the race," Geroux reflected. "It worked out good and we were able to go through. (Our Channel) kicked away from me a little bit, but I caught him at the end."
Exiting an off-the-board finish in the Group I English Derby, Rabbah Bloodstock's England-based Our Channel finished a game second under James Graham for trainer William Haggas, returning $6.40 and $4.60. Gary and Mary West's Highball, ridden by Alan Garcia for trainer Wayne Catalano, closed from the rear of the field, but came up 1¼-length short, crossing the wire third and returning $6 to show. Morning line favorite California shipper Schoolofhardrocks finished fourth under Victor Espinoza a half-length astern for trainer David Hofmans.
"Horses like (Ghostly Wonder) shouldn't be allowed to run; they just get in the way," said Graham. "He quickened turning for home. The last sixteenth he had to look around at all the people on the wire." Haggas' assistant trainer Archie Watson was pleased with the colt's performance after shipping across the Atlantic. "He ran a huge race, especially off those fractions. It's gutting to be beaten, but the winner is obviously a good horse."
Garcia was pleased with Highball, who making his third career start and first outside of maiden ranks. "He broke slow. I thought he was going nowhere, but then I had him pick it up at the quarter pole; he ran a huge race. I think he's going to keep getting better; he's still so green."
Espinoza, on the other hand, seemed to expect more from his highly regarded charge. "It was good and I was sitting right behind then moved out. It was a good trip, but not enough horse."
Afortable, Big Tom Prado, Giacullure, Hesinfront and Ghostly Wonder completed the order of finish. Chief Barker was pulled up entering the backstretch and vanned off the course.
The top three finishers of the American Derby are awarded automatic entry and waived fees to the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 16 – Arlington Million Day.