Danza does it at Derby


HOT SPRINGS — Bravo, Danza! Bravo!

Danza, a 15-1 longshot according to Charlie Cooper (41-1 officially), moved into the lead going into the front stretch and never looked back Saturday in winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby on the last day of action at Oaklawn Park. The Todd Pletcher-trained horse, ridden by Joe Bravo, won with a time of 1 minute, 49.68 seconds.

“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.”

Another longshot, Ride On Curlin (12-1), was second, while 2-1 hopeful Bayern took third. Tapiture, which had 9-5 odds, was fourth and didn’t have much to offer down the stretch.

“The race didn’t work out the way we wanted today,” Tapiture trainer Steve Asmussen said. “I thought he was pretty wide behind a moderate pace and that made it a very long race for him today. We’ll see how he comes of it. He goes on to Louisville (today) and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Danza paid $84.60 to win, $28.40 to place and $11 to show. Ride On Curlin paid $7 and $4 and Bayern paid $4.

Danza was third and fourth through the first three mile markers but slipped through to challenge in the turn for home and cruised from there. Bayern led through the one-fourth, one-half and three-fourths mile markers before Danza caught up with him.

Tapiture raced four-wide most of the way but was never higher than fourth at the mile markers.

A Chestnut colt, Danza turns 3 Thursday.

“We were searching for the right race and the right option and it seemed like the Arkansas Derby was the race for us to step out and take our shot,” Pletcher said. “We’re certainly very excited that we did and very proud of the way the horse ran (Saturday).”

Also Saturday, Will Take Charge, with Luis Saez aboard, won the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap, but had to withstand a protracted stewards inquiry and objections from jockeys Mike Smith and Gary Stevens.

Will Take Charge took charge on the outside turning for home and brushed with Stevens’ Golden Lad nearing their eighth pole. Will Take Charge battled with Smith’s Revolutionary and crossed under the wire in 1:49 3/5, three-quarters of a length in front.

“(Will Take Charge) came over a little bit,” Smith said. “I had to wait. I would have liked to see what the outcome was (otherwise) because I only got beat by a neck, and 2 (Will Take Charge) jumps past the wire I was in front. It was a 50-50 call and I understand that. It was a judgment call and it just didn’t go my way.”

Information from Oaklawn Media Relations and Equibase Company were used in this story.