17-1 long shot Line of David wins Arkansas Derby

Turns out Line of David digs the dirt.

The front-running colt won the $1 million Arkansas Derby by a

neck on Saturday, propelling the 17-1 long shot into Kentucky Derby

consideration after his debut on the surface.

Line of David had never before run in a stakes race and his last

two victories were on the turf. His three races before those came

on synthetic surfaces, although he has trained on dirt in Southern

California.

Suddenly, trainer John Sadler has two prospects for the first

Saturday in May, along with Sidney’s Candy, who went gate-to-wire

in winning last weekend’s Santa Anita Derby. He’s also aiming filly

Crisp toward the Derby-eve Kentucky Oaks.

It was the biggest victory of veteran jockey Jon Court’s career

in his first time riding the colt. He departed Southern California

last year after struggling on the super-competitive circuit and

went to Kentucky and Oaklawn Park, but left an impression on

Sadler.

“He was a good guy when he was there, and even though he’s not

riding there now, he left a good taste in my mouth,” the trainer

said.

It was the second stunning Derby prep result of the day. Stately

Victor, a 40-1 shot, won the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland’s

synthetic surface.

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Super Saver was second on Oaklawn’s

dirt.

“This ought to really set him up well,” said co-owner Bill

Casner of WinStar Farm. “You’ve got to hand it to the winner. He

just ran a monster race.”

Dublin was another neck back in third for four-time Kentucky

Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

“We’re disappointed not to win, but I was pleased with the

effort,” he said. “I’ve always tried not to have my best race

three weeks out. I’ve always felt like I needed to leave something.

Having said that, I’d like to not have left that neck.”

Uh Oh Bango was fourth, followed by 8-5 favorite Noble’s

Promise, who finished out of the money for the first time in eight

career starts. New Madrid was sixth, Berberis seventh, Pulsion

eighth and Lukas’ other entry, Northern Giant, last.

“We got stopped at the start. We lost all chance,” said Ken

McPeek, who trains Noble’s Promise. “He put himself in a bad

position when he hopped at the start. 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 positions in

the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field based on their graded stakes

earnings.

Line of David had zero such earnings until Saturday, because he

had never before run in such prestigious company. He’d won just

$62,000 in his career. The winner’s share of $600,000 has him tied

for fifth with Eskendereya.

Super Saver boosted his Derby case by earning $200,000, giving

him $363,832.

Line of David ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:49.37 and paid $36.60, $14.80

and $6.80 to win the richest Kentucky Derby prep in the country.

He’s a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart.

Super Saver returned $6.20 and $4, while Dublin paid $3.60 to

show.

Court guided Line of David to the lead out of the No. 8 post.

They gained an inside position and opened a 3 1/2-length lead at

one point before Super Saver closed strongly to force a photo

finish, leaving the crowd of 61,531 in suspense for a few

minutes.

“When I called on him, he was full of run through the bridle

and he fought very valiantly for the photo,” Court said. “With

John, one thing you can always count on is his horses are fit and

ready, and a horse like that you can ride with confidence.”

With only a third-place finish among his first three career

races, Sadler made several changes with Line of David. He moved the

colt to the turf, added blinkers to focus him, and altered his

running style.

After all that, Sadler wanted to give Line of David his first

shot in a dirt race to see if he liked it.

Did he ever.

“The guy I had getting on him this week said he was perfect on

the dirt,” Sadler said. “You never know until they do it, and we

as trainers tend to be so conservative we always get surprised when

they do succeed.”

Line of David’s victory gave Southern California-based colts a

sweep of Oaklawn’s major 3-year-old races. Conveyance won the

Southwest and Lookin At Lucky took the Rebel.

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