Updated on 07/20/2012 10:43AM

Colonial Downs: Scratch of Summer Front makes Silver Max look all the better in Virginia Derby

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Silver Max has won five straight entering the Virginia Derby Saturday.

Marquee races demand marquee racehorses, and Colonial Downs just may have one in Silver Max for their annual highlight, the Virginia Derby. Silver Max has been sensational in putting together a five-race win streak and will be a huge favorite Saturday night when the Grade 2, $600,000 Virginia Derby is run for the 15th time at Colonial in New Kent, Va.

The defection of Summer Front as the prospective top threat among the other eight 3-year-olds entered in the Virginia Derby surely will make Silver Max an even heavier choice than he would have been otherwise. Christophe Clement, the trainer of Summer Front, confirmed by twitter early Friday that the weather forecast for the Richmond area for Saturday night precluded him from putting the colt on a south-bound van. A detailed forecast from The Weather Channel showed thundershowers all the way through Sunday

“He will run Sunday at Saratoga” in the $100,000 Duluth Stakes on the grass, said Clement.

With that issue resolved, there is even less doubt about how the 1 1/4-mile turf race will take shape: Silver Max, with Robby Albardo to ride, will speed to the early lead on the expansive Secretariat course, then dare all to come get him.

“I know a mile and a quarter might seem a little far to a horse with as much speed as him,” said Dale Romans, who said he will be on hand from Saratoga for the race. “But he’s shown he can relax, and obviously that’s the key.”

Romans entered Silver Max to run in the American Derby last Saturday at Arlington Park before declining to put the colt on a van from his main Churchill Downs base. Romans won the race anyway with Cozzetti. “I hadn’t made up my mind where to run by the time we entered,” he said.

Romans said the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington will be next for Silver Max, assuming a good effort Saturday night at Colonial.

Romans has a second horse in the Virginia Derby in Finnegans Wake, a last-out winner of a first-level turf allowance at Churchill. Likewise, Clement has another entry in Easy Crossing, a colt the trainer confirmed as a starter, regardless of weather conditions.

The rest of the field includes Optimizer, Two Months Rent, Coach Royal, Lucky Chappy, and Mr. Handsome. Of those, Optimizer and Lucky Chappy may rate the best upset chances: Optimizer clearly is turf-bred despite the fact he ran in all three Triple Crown events, while Lucky Chappy is a fresh stretch-runner with plenty of back class.

Riding assignments included Ramon Dominguez on Summer Front and Alan Garcia aboard Lucky Chappy. Both jockeys are scheduled to be zipped by charter plane from Saratoga to Delaware Park to Colonial. Dominguez will make the last leg of the trip even with Summer Front being scratched, as he has the mount on favored Zultanite in the preceding race, the $150,000 Virginia Oaks.

Colonial officials said Albarado has been cleared to ride Saturday despite his legal problems in Kentucky in recent months.

A terrific 14-race Saturday card begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, with the Virginia Derby, the ninth race, set for 8:38. The Virginia Derby will be shown live on HRTV. Four earlier stakes are on tap, led by the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks (race 8) for 3-year-old fillies.

Colonial has aggressively marketed tailgating availability and a “party zone” to Richmond-area patrons for easily its biggest live-racing event of the year.