By Dick Downey
(Franklin, KY) – The inaugural running of the Dueling Grounds Derby turned out to be an aptly named contest, with My Afleet and Medal Count battling down the stretch before My Afleet gamely emerged victorious by a nose at Kentucky Downs.
Leandro Goncalves kept My Afleet on the lead and well off the rail through most of the 1 5/16-mile race. In mid-stretch, Medal Count, who was never far back, got the better of My Afleet by a head, but the latter one came back to regain the slimmest of leads in the thrilling final strides.
My Afleet covered the course in 2:14.10 to take the winner’s share of the $250,000 purse for owners Jeffrey S. Amling and Merrifield Farm. James L. Lawrence, III trains the gelded son of Afleet Alex out of the Lasting Approval mare My Own Story.
My Afleet returned $19.00, $7.00 and $3.40 to his backers. The gray gelding came into the race off of a victory in a 1 1/2-mile turf allowance at Saratoga on August 10.
Medal Count, a colt that finished third, beaten a length, in the Belmont Stakes earlier this year, was the 7-5 betting favorite in the Dueling Grounds Derby. The Dale Romans trainee is a son of Dynaformer out of a daughter of Unbridled’s Song and was ridden by Robby Albarado.
Third place went to the Graham Motion-trained Can’thelpbelieving (IRE). Global View, the 5-2 second choice at the windows, finished fourth for trainer Tom Proctor. They were followed by Captain Dixie, Rankhasprivileges, Woodfield Springs and Laddie Boy. Proud Azteca and Pumpkin Rumble were scratched.
Aimling said before the race that he didn't see much early speed other than My Afleet. "Goncalves told me he is going to keep him off the rail because the ground is soft on the inside," Aimling said.
Future race plans for My Afleet aren't completely definite, but Amling thinks something will shape up soon.
A portion of the content for this story was supplied by Kentucky Downs.
"He'll go back to Fair Hill and chill out. We've been talking about taking him to Florida, but he loves poly and turf, and he loves the distances. We won't run him on a hard surface," Amling said. "He's remarkably resilient and (sometimes) is ready to run two week later, so we'll see."