Red-hot trainer John Sadler captured the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) with front-running upsetter Line of David at Oaklawn Park April 10, just a week after Sadler took the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) with Sidney's Candy.
Line of David was making his stakes and natural dirt debut in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby and bursts into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) picture with the winner's share of $600,000 for the richest of the Derby preps. Line of David had won two races in a row prior to the Arkansas Derby, both on the turf at Santa Anita.
Ridden for the first time by Jon Court, 17-1 shot Line of David set a fast pace and looked like he would be inhaled by Super Saver and Dublin to his outside in upper stretch. But the well-built son of Lion Heart --Emma's Dilemma, by Capote, refused to give way, holding on to win by a neck over Super Saver. Dublin, who had every opportunity on the outside of his rivals, settled for third, a neck behind the runner-up.
The final time was 1:49.37 over a fast track.
Uh Oh Bango finished fourth and 8-5 favorite Noble's Promise was fifth.
"We're setting up camp Monday or Tuesday (April 12 or 13) at Churchill Downs," a beaming Sadler told HRTV immediately afterward. "We'll just add one more to the mix."
"This horse had been training really, really, really well at home," said Sadler, the leading trainer this season at Santa Anita. "We wanted to give him a chance on natural dirt. We're thrilled."
Line of David, now three-for-three since Sadler added blinkers to his equipment, is owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash.
Court sent Line of David, breaking from post 8 in the field of nine, directly to the lead and he clipped off fast splits of :22.65, :46.26, and 1:10.75 while building a comfortable three-length advantage over Super Saver and Dublin, who were well spotted throughout. Swinging out of the final turn, both Super Saver, ridden by Calvin Borel, and Dublin, with Terry Thompson aboard, were on the move with Uh Oh Bango and Noble's Promise advancing into contention from mid-pack.
They battled like that through the lane, with Line of David inching away and digging deep to hold off Super Saver, who was edging closer as they approached the wire. Dublin hung a bit in deep stretch while holding onto third.
"I tell you what, we put him on the front end and rolled into that first turn and he was rolling along pretty good but he came back to me," said Court, who rode for Sadler on occasion when he was based in Southern California for a few years. "I was a little concerned because we were clipping along pretty good but we weren't losing any ground either.
"When I called on him he was full of run through the bridle and he fought very valiantly for the photo."
It was 1 3/4 lengths to Uh Oh Bango in fourth, two lengths in front of Noble's Promise, who had an adventurous trip with Robby Albarado before coming up empty in the drive. New Madrid, Berberis, Pulsion and Northern Giant completed the order.
Line of David's career resume had been modest prior to the Arkansas Derby. He raced three times on synthetic tracks at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita before switching to the turf and breaking his maiden in front-running style at odds of 11-1 in a one-mile race Feb. 13. Brought back at the same distance on March 11, the chestnut colt again led from gate to wire while scoring by 4 1/2 lengths. His lifetime mark now stands at 3-0-1 in six starts with earnings of $662,000.
"We wanted to be in front because at Santa Anita he was going in front and it just seemed to build confidence," Sadler said.
Sadler said Line of David would join Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Crisp, Sidney's Candy and a couple of others at Churchill Downs next week.
Sadler said he was not going to worry about having both Sidney's Candy and Line of David, who both like to be on the lead, in the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm not going to think about (the pace) until tomorrow," he said. "We will sleep on this, and of course see how he comes out, and take things one step at a time."
Sabine Stable bred the winner in Florida.
Carrying 118 pounds Line of David went off as the seventh choice in the field and paid a whopping $36.60, $14.80 and $6.80. He keyed a $252.40 exacta.
WinStar Farm's homebred Super Saver gave a game account of himself for trainer Todd Pletcher in his second start of the year, returning $6.20 and $4. Winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) last November, the Maria's Mon colt was coming off a third-place finish -- beaten a half-length by Odysseus -- in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 13.
"I thought he ran great," said Elliot Walden, racing manager for WinStar. "He's only had one race this year and the thing you hope for is to move forward in a race like this. He did that and we just hope he puts it all together in the Kentucky Derby."
Grade I winner Dubin turned in his third successive strong effort at Oaklawn this season and paid $3.60 to show. The Wayne Lukas trainee was coming off a third-place effort in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 13 and a runner-up finish in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) prior to that.
"(Dublin) had dead aim and he might have gotten a nose in front at some point, but you've got to be impressed with how the speed held pretty good," Lukas said. "I've got no complaints. We will look at this as a prep and see where we are. We're disappointed not to win, but I was pleased with the effort."
Noble's Promise, who missed by a head in the Rebel, broke out at the start and bumped. He remained in tight quarters before steadying on the first turn. After getting into striking distance in the stretch, he lugged in and weakened to lose by 4 1/4 lengths.
"We got stopped at the start," said Ken McPeek, trainer of the beaten favorite. "We lost all chance. He put himself in a bad position when he hopped at the start. We will look at him and see how he's doing. We didn't get beat by much, but we never really had a chance because of the start."
Dublin and Noble's Promise were already guaranteed spots in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field based on their graded stakes earnings. Super Saver boosted his Derby case by earning $200,000, giving him $363,832. Meanwhile, in one big swoop, Line of David moved into a tie for fifth with early Derby favorite Eskendereya.
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