07/21/2012 9:18PM

Colonial: Silver Max stays perfect on turf by taking Virginia Derby


Even faced with a surprise challenge, Silver Max kept his cool. An out-of-control longshot had overtaken Silver Max down the backstretch Saturday night in the 1 1/4-mile Virginia Derby, a development that often spells doom for a front-running type.

But Silver Max, ridden by Robby Albarado, maintained an even pace, regained the lead entering the far turn, and then had enough left to defeat Lucky Chappy by a length in the 15th running of the Grade 2, $600,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va.

“That was an adventure,” said trainer Dale Romans, who was on hand from Saratoga. “This is a special horse. He proved he can handle the mile and a quarter. It’s going to take a real good horse to beat him.”

Silver Max now has won six straight races, all on turf, and will head to the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes as a major contender for Romans and owners Mark Bacon and Dana Wells. He returned $3.80 as  the favorite in a field of eight 3-year-olds after finishing in 2:04.05 over a yielding turf.

On a damp night, Silver Max assumed his customary position on an open lead, remaining well out from the rail into the first turn. Suddenly, Two Months Rent sprinted wildly to challenge him, albeit unintentionally, as Julian Pimentel had no control of his mount because his saddle had slipped. Two Months Rent actually went ahead by about a length down the backstretch.

“I was a little worried when that other horse came up,” said Albarado. “But Silver Max was content to be where he was.”

Two Months Rent was  eased, with Pimentel losing his irons. Meanwhile, Silver Max ran along unfazed, first turning back his Romans-trained stablemate, Finnegans Wake, inside the eighth pole, then finishing clear of a belated run from Lucky Chappy. Finnegans Wake was third, another half-length back, while Optimizer was along late to be fourth.

Silver Max “knows how to come home,” said Albarado. A Kentucky-bred colt by Badge of Silver, he earned his biggest payday, $352,800, to lift his bankroll to $855,967. He is unbeaten in seven starts on turf and is winless in six tries on other surfaces.

It was the third win in the Virginia Derby for Romans, who won in 2004 with Kitten’s Joy and two years ago with Paddy O’Prado.

Albarado also won the co-feature of the Saturday card aboard Volcat in the Grade 2, $150,000 Virginia Oaks.

Summer Front, second choice on the morning line, was an early scratch from the Virginia Derby and was scheduled to run instead Sunday in the second race at Saratoga.

Ramon Dominguez was named to ride Summer Front but picked up the mount on Easy Crossing, who faded to seventh. He and fellow jockey Alan Garcia, who rode Lucky Chappy, rode at Saratoga in the early afternoon, then hopped a charter to Delaware Park, and then were late to Colonial when encountering automobile traffic on their way from the airport. Both missed their mounts in the preceding race, the Virginia Oaks, before getting to ride the Virginia Derby.