June 24, 2024

Vahva proves best in Derby City Distaff

Vahva winning the Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)
Vahva winning the Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Belladonna Racing, Edward Hudson Jr. and West Point Thoroughbreds’ et al.’s Vahva got into ideal position immediately in Saturday’s $1 million Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs, rating on the outside before gaining the upper hand in midstretch, and posting a convincing two-length victory.

Trained by Cherie DeVaux and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Vahva followed the pacesetter Spirit Wind, who took the field past a quarter in :22.36 and a half in :45.12. Spirit Wind proved unable to sustain her advantage entering the stretch, however, and yielded to Alva Starr, who had just a head up on the eventual winner past six panels in 1:09.13. Under left-handed urging from Ortiz, Vahva had too much in the tank and edged clear of her rival before completing seven furlongs in 1:21.75 over a track labeled fast.

Vahva, the 1.72-1 favorite, turned the tables on Alva Starr, who had edged her out in last month’s Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Following the winner and Alva Starr under the wire were Flying Connection, Chi Town Lady, Sterling Silver, Spirit Wind, Three Witches, Red Carpet Ready, Olivia Darling, and American Band.

DeVaux gave credit all around afterward.

“That was an unbelievable performance to win a Grade 1 on this type of stage is so special,” she said. “It’s really hard to describe. I’m just so happy with everyone involved with this horse and our team.”

Vahva, a daughter of 2017 Horse of the Year and recent Hall of Fame inductee Gun Runner, became a millionaire and boosted her bankroll to $1,578,310. She now has a 5-3-2 record from 12 starts. The bay is unbeaten in three attempts beneath the Twin Spires, but she also came into the Derby City sporting wins in the Raven Run S. (G2) at Keeneland as well as the Charles Town Oaks (G3). In other words, she can run anywhere.

Bred in Kentucky, Vahva sold for $280,000 as a 2021 Keeneland September yearling. She is the sixth foal and first black type winner out of the stakes-winning Harlan’s Holiday mare Holiday Soiree, who also has an unnamed yearling filly by Nyquist and an unnamed 2024 filly by City of Light.

Devaux stated on the telecast that the filly will be pointed toward the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.