LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Racing history is repeating itself for New Orleanian Dallas Stewart. For the second straight year, he’s had a long-shot late-entering horse in the Kentucky Derby.
And for the second straight year he’s had the Derby runner-up.
Commanding Curve came in second to Derby favorite California Chrome by 1¾ lengths in the 140th Run for the Roses on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“I thought it went pretty smooth. It really did,” Stewart said.
“All week long, he’s trained solid,” he added. “Beautiful horse. Sound. Just what you want.”
It was not such a good day for Louisiana-bred Louisiana Derby champion Vicar’s in Trouble. The Mike Maker-trained horse ran out of gas and finished last in the field of 19.
“We actually got into a really good position,” said jockey Rosie Napravnik, who was hoping to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. “You can’t expect not to be close to each other.
“We got into a great position. I was tracking behind California Chrome, and we didn’t really have enough horse.”
Intense Holiday, second to Vicar’s in Trouble in the Louisiana Derby was 11th.
Commanding Curve was third in the Louisiana Derby, earning him just enough points to squeeze into the Derby. It was a similar situation last year when Golden Soul benefitted from attrition to make the field and then surprised everyone by finishing second to Orb at 34-1.
Commanding Curve was an even longer shot at 37-1.
But he came from near the back of the pack and propelled to the front in the home stretch, although California Chrome could not be caught.
But for those who bet on him, Commanding Curve returned $31.18 to place and $15.40 to show.
“I thought he ran great. He outran us. Congratulations to him,” Stewart said. “They should enjoy it, and (California Chrome trainer) Art Sherman’s a great guy.”
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, the fifth-leading rider at Fair Grounds in the last meet, gave Commanding Curve the credit for the second-place finish.
“All I had to do was just ride him hard, and he gave me everything,” he said. “I was starting to get him geared up when he turned for home, and I had half the field beat at that point.
“I just was looking somewhere for him to go. Once I got him down the lane, man, he lengthened his stride and really dug in for me.”
Louisiana native and three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel finished seventh with Ride On Curlin, who broke from gate 19, far away from the rail that Borel — sometimes known as “Bo-rail” — used in his three previous Derby victories.
“With the first part of the race, I was very pleased about getting over,” Borel said, “but when Rosie’s horse came to a complete stop, I lost momentum, too — then I had to come out running nine wide and still finished seventh, so that’s not so bad.”
Trained by Winnsboro native Billy Gowan, Ride On Curlin was the runner-up to Danza — the Derby’s third-place finisher — in the Arkansas Derby last month.
“I’m not saying I was going to win, but he could have been an easy second or third,” Borel said. “I was very impressed with the colt. He did good. I think he’s going to do better next time out.”
Todd Pletcher, who had Intense Holiday and three others in the race, said the Risen Star winner was not at his best.
“He was hung outside all the way around,” he said.
“He just never seemed to get with it.”
Medal Count, with Robby Albarado aboard, finished eighth, one spot behind Ride on Curlin while Corey Lanerie, making his Derby debut aboard Harry’s Holiday, finished 16th
It was a good Derby weekend for Stewart.
Unbridled Forever finished third in the Kentucky Oaks, albeit far behind favored Untapable, who dominated the race just as much as she did in winning the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Stewart said that running his filly in Pimlico’s Black-Eyed Susan on May 16 would be too quick a turnaround but said he would probably try to get her in the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park.
As for Commanding Curve’s future, he said a Preakness run was probable, but that it was too early to tell.
“We’re just going to savor this right now,” Stewart said.
And what about that elusive first-place finish?
“We’ve got 363 days to try to get a little bit better,” Stewart said.