Vance Scholars Upsets $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby in Return

Surface, Company No Problem for Music Amore in $100,000 Searching

LAUREL, MD – Steven T. Newby’s Vance Scholars, racing for the first time in 259 days, made a triumphant return to competition by springing a 12-1 upset of Saturday’s $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby in gate-to-wire fashion at Laurel Park.

The fourth running of the Bald Eagle Derby for 3-year-olds, named for the two-time Washington D.C. International winner and the nation’s champion handicap horse of 1960, was the second of two stakes rained off the turf to the main track, preceded by the 12th renewal of the $100,000 Searching for 3-year-old fillies.

Ridden by Jorge Ruiz for trainer Dale Capuano, Vance Scholars ($26.60) ran 1 3/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:58.29 to earn his third career win and first in a stakes. It was the second straight week the connections left Laurel with a stakes victory, following Justwaveandsmile’s triumph in the $75,000 Ben’s Cat July 30.

“Two-for-two,” Newby said. “What have we got next week?”

Vance Scholars, a gelded son of Holy Boss, rallied for a one-mile optional claiming allowance victory last November at Laurel before getting the winter off. He had been training steadily for his return, including a five-furlong breeze over Laurel’s turf course July 31.

“We had him ready the best that we could. His best races were going long, so that’s what we wanted to do,” Capuano said. “He worked fine on the turf [but] when it came off, it didn’t upset us. It worked out well.”

Ruiz had Vance Scholars relaxed on the front end through a quarter-mile in 24.78 seconds chased by stakes winner Undercover Kitty, looking for her third straight victory. The gap had closed but Vance Scholars was still in front after a half in 49.63, and maintained the advantage heading into the far turn.

Undercover Kitty moved up to even terms approaching the stretch and turned for home together, but Vance Scholars dug in along the inside and steadily edged clear after going a mile in 1:38.98. Undercover Kitty held second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of late-running Majestic Frontier followed by Speaking Scout, 6-5 favorite Tommy Bee and Cloud Play. Timo was scratched.

Capuano said he would have likely gotten Vance Scholars started in the Bald Eagle Derby even if it stayed on the turf. Vance Scholars has yet to race on grass.

“We would have watched the races just to see how soft it was,” he said. “When he worked last Sunday it was pretty soft and he got over it well. I think he can handle it … so we probably would have taken a shot.”

Newby said Vance Scholars is named for a scholarship program he established at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington D.C. named for 19-time Emmy Award-winning newscaster Jim Vance, who tied in 2017 at the age of 75 after a brief battle with cancer.

“A great man of very, very high character,” Newby said. “We founded and funded this program and we’ve had many, many scholarships out of it.”

Surface, Company No Problem for Music Amore in $100,000 Searching

Music Amore, making her stakes debut while racing on dirt for the first time in more than a year, had no trouble adjusting to the company or surface with a front-running 2 ½-length triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Searching.

Owned by trainer Gerald Brooks, Carl Hess Jr. and Ronald Clark, Music Amore ($18.40) notched her second win in three starts since being claimed by Brooks for $20,000 in May. She ran one mile in 1:38.88 over a fast main track to give teenage jockey Jeiron Barbosa his first career stakes win.

Breaking inside each of her seven rivals following the early scratch of Vergara, who had drawn the rail, Music Amore was hustled from the gate and raced on even terms with Queen Macha on her outside through a quarter-mile in 23.78 seconds with stakes winner Ocean Safari in the clear three wide and 6-5 favorite Lady Puchi racing between horses in fourth.

Music Amore began to edge away from Queen Macha entering the far turn while Lady Puchi was gaining ground along the inside and Ocean Safari, racing for the first time since her victory in the May 7 Honey Ryder at Gulfstream Park, was being ridden hard to keep up. Lady Puchi ranged up to Music Amore midway on the turn and the two straightened for home together, but Music Amore was able to keep the favorite at bay the length of the stretch.

Lady Puchi was a clear second, 9 ¼ lengths in front of Pharoah’s Song. Queen Macha, Cupid’s Strike, Quality Control, Tasweya and Ocean Safari completed the order of finish. Gastown Babe and Sparkle Blue were also scratched.

“When she made the lead going down the backside, I said, ‘We’ve got a shot.’ When she turned for home, she’s got a big heart and she took care of it,” Brooks said.

Music Amore had raced exclusively on grass and all-weather surfaces since finishing fifth in a five-furlong maiden sprint last July at Gulfstream. Winless in five starts at 2, she broke her maiden going a mile on the Tampa Bay Downs turf Jan. 8 and was claimed two starts later out of a front-running win at Presque Isle Downs, also going eight furlongs.

“I didn’t know. She has never been on the dirt [since her debut],” Brooks said of the surface switch. “I said, ‘Well, let’s go to the lead and see how far it can take us.’ She did it.”

According to Equibase statistics the 18-year-old Barbosa had placed twice in stakes this year, finishing second in the June 9 Tremont at Belmont Park aboard Putthepastbehind and third in the July 9 Delaware Handicap (G3) with Tonal Vision.

Barbosa, who speaks little English, began riding professionally Jan. 1 in his native Puerto Rico before arriving in Maryland and winning with his first two U.S. mounts March 25 at Laurel. He held off Jevian Toledo to win Laurel’s spring meet title, becoming only the third apprentice in track history to be leading rider following Yomar Ortiz (2013 winter) and Julio Correa (2019 summer).

“I’m happy,” Barbosa said.

Searching, a 1978 Hall of Fame inductee, was a bay daughter of 1937 Triple Crown champion War Admiral bred by Odgen Phipps that won the Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico in 1955 and 1957 for trainer Hirsch Jacobs, retiring with a record of 25-14-16 with $327,381 in purse earnings from 89 starts. As a broodmare, Searching also enjoyed great success with offspring such as Affectionately, an 18-time stakes winner and dam of 1970 Preakness winner Personality, and Admiring, the grand-dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email