How to bet the Dueling Grounds Derby and Dueling Ground Oaks

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 9th, 2020

Talented 3-year-old turf horses will take center stage at Kentucky Downs for a pair of rich 1 5/16-mile events on Thursday: the $500,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks and the $750,000 Dueling Grounds Derby.

Both races have drawn full and ultra-competitive fields, so let’s look for winning plays on a $50 budget.

Race 8: Dueling Grounds Oaks

Regret (G3) winner #9 Harvey’s Lil Goil (9-5) is the clear morning line favorite while switching back to turf off a game third-place effort in the Alabama (G1) on dirt. But I’m not convinced this daughter of American Pharoah will relish the extended distance of the Dueling Grounds Oaks, considering she weakened in the drive of the 1 1/4-mile Alabama. Keep in mind, the majority of American Pharoah’s best foals to date have been sprinter and milers.

#1 Sursum Corda (30-1) is an intriguing alternative at a huge price. A pure late runner, this Ian Wilkes trainee has been repeatedly compromised by slow pace fractions, but nevertheless secured a remarkable maiden victory running 1 3/8 miles on July 31 at Saratoga.

Reserved in last place behind extraordinarily slow fractions of :26.04, :51.93, 1:18.66, and 1:43.91, Sursum Corda was the only closer to make an impact down the stretch, sprinting the final three furlongs in :34.14 per Trakus to catch pacesetter and next-out winner Prairie Wings by a head. Sursum Corda’s powerful finish produced a massive 118 Brisnet Late Pace rating.

With hot jockey Julien Leparoux in the saddle, Sursum Corda can outrun expectations in the Dueling Grounds Oaks. Let’s bet her to win and place, then single her to start a small double:

$10 to win/place on #1 Sursum Corda ($20)
$5 double: 1 with 5
Total: $25

Race 9: Dueling Grounds Derby (5:32 p.m. ET)

#6 Peace Achieved (9-2) was a high-class juvenile, dominating the Juvenile S. at Kentucky Downs by 2 1/2 lengths before battling to victory in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland. In the latter race, Peace Achieved defeated a strong field including future graded stakes winners Vitalogy, Field Pass, and Art Collector.

Peace Achieved recently returned from a long layoff in the 1-mile Caesars S. at Indiana Grand. Racing over a yielding turf course, Peace Achieved rallied mildly to finish fourth behind front-running winner Fancy Liquor, who returned to win the American Turf (G2) on Kentucky Derby day.

The progeny of hot young sire Declaration of War win at an impressive average distance of 8.5 furlongs, so Peace Achieved should relish the 1 5/16-mile distance of the Dueling Grounds Derby. Jockey Florent Geroux has been among the most successful riders at Kentucky Downs in recent years, so Peace Achieved looms as the runner to beat in his second start off the layoff.

$25 to win on #6 Peace Achieved

Good luck!