41-1 Danza bosses Arkansas Derby field
Bayern showed his trademark early speed to grab the lead. Hounded by Thundergram, the 55-1 longest shot on the board, Bayern carved out fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 1/5 on the fast track. Danza was perched in a ground-saving spot by Joe Bravo, just behind the front runner. Strong Mandate raced alongside Danza, and Tapiture began to creep forward as the field advanced down the backstretch.Rounding the far turn, Bravo sent Danza through a golden opening on the inside, and he responded to join Bayern. Danza headed the favorite cornering into the stretch, and although Bayern tried to find another gear, he could not match strides with the winner. Opening up in the lane, Danza negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 3/5 to record his first stakes victory.
"That was a pretty great effort," Bravo said. "Todd was pretty high on the horse and he told me this morning that he was going to be fresh so don't take anything away from him. Try to save as much as you can and let him run his race. It was textbook, just textbook. Everything unfolded like a dream. That was pretty cool down the lane.
"It's really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I'm not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I'm crossing my fingers he's my Derby horse. This is what dreams are made of.
"You've got to take your hat off to Todd Pletcher," Bravo added. "He knows how to bring them around at the right time of the year. Nobody does it year in and year out the way he does. I'm so happy for Mr. (Aron) Wellman and Eclipse Thoroughbreds. They put so much into the game. They deserve and good one, and I think they've got him."
Bayern tired in deep stretch, and the late-running Ride on Curlin overhauled him by a half-length.
Jon Court described his first ride aboard Ride on Curlin.
"Everything came together, and he's been pressed his last couple of races," Court said, referring to his third-place efforts in the Southwest and Rebel. "Actually, he tested me on the backside like it's time to go. I had to just put him in a position to settle and I knew I had a lot of horse turning for home. I was kind of taken back to see the one horse (Danza) just continue coming off that seven-eigths.I thought he was making a move, and I made my move, and he outfinished us. He's to be respected. It was a good field of horse flesh."
Bayern's team hoped for a better result.
"I had a good comfortable trip, a nice comfortable pace, and it picked up nice," Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said. "Approaching the quarter-pole, the winner came up inside of me. I thought I was going to be able to stay with him, and I thought my horse was going to give him a little fight, but he didn't."
"I have to talk to Bob (Baffert) and see what he thinks," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said. "I would have liked to have seen him let him run and maybe come after him."
"We were searching for the right race and the right option," Pletcher said, "and it seemed like the Arkansas Derby was the race for us to step out and take our shot. We're certainly very excited that we did and very proud of the way the horse ran today. I don't remember winning a Grade 1 at 40-1, but it's not very often that our horses pay those type of mutuels.
"We narrowed it down between the Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby and it we thought the race would set up a little better there. Also with dirt, that was the tie breaker. We like the way both horses were training and anticipated Commissioner running better than he did.
"Danza came in fresher with only one start this year. Both horses were training well coming in to the race.
"It wasn't Commissioner's day," Pletcher summed up about the colt, who acted up badly in the saddling area. "I wasn't aware of his antics until after the race. But, I would have to think that it affected his performance in a negative way."
Bred by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm in Kentucky, Danza was purchased for $105,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. He was produced by the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Champagne Royale, and his half-brother, Majestic Harbor, recently won the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita. Danza's second dam, All Tanked Up, is a daughter of 1985 Arkansas Derby and Preakness hero Tank's Prospect.
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