January 21, 2021

Gorgeous Kitten seeks return to winner’s circle in Dueling Grounds Derby; Daddys Lil Darling tops Dueling Grounds Oaks

Sunday’s $350,000 Dueling Grounds Derby and $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks pay homage to Kentucky Downs’ founding name, which in turn referenced the track’s historic location as a popular spot for duels to be conducted.

The two contests will likely feature dueling of their own as competitive fields line up to go 1 5/16 miles in each event.

The Dueling Grounds Derby boasts 11 runners, including the Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred Gorgeous Kitten. The bay son of Kitten’s Joy shows just two wins on his resume, breaking his maiden on the synthetic Polytrack at Turfway Park in February and capturing an allowance over Keeneland’s turf on April 26.

Since then Gorgeous Kitten has reputed himself well while competing against graded rivals. The Mike Make trainee filled the runner-up spots in both the Arlington Classic (G3) and American Derby (G3) before finishing fifth in the Secretariat Stakes (G1) in his past three races. Floret Geroux was aboard for that latter contest and retains the mount in the Dueling Grounds Derby.

Parlor is looking for his first stakes win here as well, and goes as the 3-1 morning-line favorite to Gorgeous Kitten’s 9-2 second choice status. Eddie Kenneally saddled Parlor to a third-place run in the Arlington Classic, just a length behind Gorgeous Kitten, and the Lonhro colt followed up with a nice win in a Churchill Downs allowance/optional claimer on June 30.

Parlor has competed just once since his third career win, finishing sixth in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) after brushing the gate and being pinched at the start of that Saratoga affair. Julien Leparoux has the call for the third straight time.

Giant Payday will try to extend his winning ways past a mile after recording a rallying one-length victory in the Mystic Lake Derby last out over a yielding course. Trained by Ian Wilkes, the chestnut colt was sixth in the Arlington Classic and sandwiched a second and first against allowance rivals at Ellis Park between that race and the Mystic Lake Derby. Chris Landeros returns to the saddle.

Also in the Dueling Grounds Derby with a chance are Big Bend and Society Beau. Tabbed at 12-1 on the morning-line, the Tom Proctor-trained Big Bend wired an allowance/optional claimer last out on July 13 at Delaware Park by four lengths. Society Beau finished third in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) on Churchill Downs’ main track and then romped in an off-the-turf allowance/optional claimer at Ellis Park before running fourth in the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes most recently on August 12.

Drayden Van Dyke will be in Big Bend’s saddle for the first time while James Graham guides Society Beau in that Curlin colt’s turf bow.

The Dueling Grounds Oaks takes place one race before the Derby and drew 10 entrants.

Daddys Lil Darling is the 3-1 morning-line favorite despite not owning a win since taking the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs nearly a year ago. Though unable to get her picture taken in eight starts since, the Kenny McPeek trainee has still reputed herself well, scoring four runner-up efforts in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Ashland Stakes (G1), Alcibiades Stakes (G1) and Golden Rod Stakes (G2).

Daddys Lil Darling has tried turf twice before, finishing sixth by only 2 1/2 lengths in the Florida Oaks (G3) and fourth by that same margin in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). The Scat Daddy filly enters the Dueling Grounds Oaks following a well-beaten fifth in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on Saratoga’s main track and brings along Leparoux.

Summer Luck is seeking a first stakes triumph in this spot after finishing third in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2), Regret Stakes (G3) and Old Hat Stakes this year. The Regret was the Mark Casse pupil’s first try on turf and she returned to the green last out for a runner-up effort against allowance/optional claimers following a sixth-placing in the CCA Oaks. Jose Ortiz has the call for the first time on the Lookin at Lucky filly.

The Michael Dickinson-trained Lift Up puts her perfect two-for-two turf record on the line here while making her stakes bow in this spot, and gets a jockey switch to Florent Geroux.