September 28, 2023

Royal Patronage looking to give Motion another Virginia Derby success

Virginia Derby (G3) — Colonial Downs Race 10 (6:14 p.m. ET)

After meeting some of the best three-year-olds in Europe and the U.S. earlier in the season, Royal Patronage will look to get reacquainted with the winner’s circle in Tuesday’s $300,000 Virginia Derby (G3), the centerpiece of the Colonial Downs meet which concludes Wednesday.

Aside from a second to eventual Epsom Derby (G1) scorer Desert Crown in the Dante (G3) at York in May, Royal Patronage struggled overseas to start the year. He’s been a bit more competitive since his arrival in the U.S. finishing 1 1/4 lengths fifth in the Belmont Derby (G1) and 3 1/4 lengths sixth in the Saratoga Derby (G1), and should appreciate the further class reduction in the 1 1/8-mile turf feature.

Graham Motion, who took over training duties for the Group 2-winning Royal Patronage prior to the Saratoga Derby, has won the last three editions of the Virginia Derby, with Wootton Asset (2021), English Bee (2019), and Just Howard (2017), the latter winning a Laurel substitute called the Commonwealth Derby.

Another Belmont Derby alumnus, Limited Liability, finished a half-length behind Royal Patronage in seventh place. The Shug McGaughey-trained son of Kitten’s Joy finished third in three prior graded stakes attempts, including the Pennine Ridge (G2) in June.

Unanimous Consent captured the Woodhaven S. at Aqueduct in April prior to a fourth-place run in the Pennine Ridge, while Vance Scholars enters off a victory in the off-the-turf Bald Eagle Derby at Laurel. Wow Whata Summer has been unplaced twice since upsetting the Penn Mile (G2) at 83-1, and California Frolic took the English Channel S. at Gulfstream in his only prior turf appearance.

Another to watch for is the Todd Pletcher-trained Capensis, who makes only is third lifetime start. A winner on debut by five lengths in a key Belmont maiden, he was subsequently sixth against allowance foes at Saratoga.