03/13/2015 1:50PM

Hovdey: Van Dyke gets taste of Grade 1 success

Shigeki Kikkawa
Drayden Van Dyke, the 2014 Eclipse-winning apprentice, won his first Grade 1 stakes with Ring Weekend in the Franke E. Kilroe Mile.

When a young jockey wins his first race, it is a cherished custom of the profession that all manner of indignities are heaped upon him. Depending on the level of sadism in a particular jockeys’ room, the hazing substances deployed might include ice water, eggs, shaving cream, Vaseline, mustard, ketchup, and both kinds of relish, along with a generous dusting of baby powder and a finishing coat of black shoe polish.

When a young jockey wins his first Grade 1 race, as Eclipse Award winner Drayden Van Dyke did last weekend at Santa Anita Park, the initiation ceremony is somewhat more subdued.

“Way to go,” said Van Dyke’s cubicle mate, Corey Nakatani. “Winning a Grade 1 like that, now I can get more money out of you.”

Welcome to the club.

Van Dyke’s work aboard Ring Weekend in the $400,000 Kilroe Mile was lost in the big day’s shuffle, sandwiched as it was between Dortmund’s sharp score in the San Felipe Stakes and Shared Belief’s romp in the Santa Anita Handicap. Riding Ring Weekend for the first time for Graham Motion and his assistant, Alice Clapham, Van Dyke inspired a rousing finish from the gelded son of Tapit that put him on the line a length in front of the favored Summer Front.

“Usually, the number on the purse doesn’t matter, but that one does,” Van Dyke said. His share of the $240,000 winning prize was his largest payday yet.

“I watched all of his replays, and usually he lays third or fourth,” Van Dyke said of Ring Weekend, who won the Hill Prince, the Saranac, and the Tampa Bay Derby last year for West Point Thoroughbreds and the St. Elias Stable. “When I breezed him the other morning, he seemed more on the bridle than he did in the race. Today, he was completely off the bridle. I was staying still ’cause he was so relaxed. I could have put him wherever I wanted. I saved a lot of ground around the first turn and the backside, then I started working my way out around the three-eighths. He really showed up.”

Van Dyke does not turn 21 until September. He became a full-fledged journeyman on Jan. 20 after leading the nation’s apprentice class in purses last year and taking titles at two of the three short Los Alamitos meets. As with most young riders in transition, the winners haven’t come as often for Van Dyke since he lost the bug – he entered the week 10th in the Santa Anita standings – but the betting holds that the kid from Arkansas will end up with numbers like Nakatani, who led all apprentices in purses in 1989 and this year has made the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

Nakatani was asked if he remembered his first Grade 1 win.

“Man, a long time ago,” Nakatani said. “The Kentucky Oaks maybe, with Lite Light? Or something with Itsallgreektome? Yeah, it had to be him – the Hollywood Turf Cup or the Hollywood Derby.”

Give that man a cigar. Nakatani’s first Grade 1 winner came in the 1990 Hollywood Derby aboard Itsallgreektome, less than a month after he turned 20. The next four jocks past the wire that afternoon were Kent Desormeaux, Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, and Eddie Delahoussaye, with Jorge Velasquez, Russell Baze, and Jose Santos also in the field. All are in the Hall of Fame.

Van Dyke knows who those guys are and studies them, in both video and real life, when he can. He did confess, however, that the name of Frank E. Kilroe was a mystery, but that’s okay. Van Dyke has mentors like Stevens, Mike Smith, Tom Proctor, and Craig Bernick to fill him in on the influence of the legendary racing executive who shaped the top-level racing programs of both Southern California and New York.

Meanwhile, you can’t do much better than winning your first Grade 1 race for a trainer like Motion, who is beginning to campaign more horses in California from his Fair Hill headquarters in Maryland.

“I was somewhat aware of him,” Motion said. “Alice had also been watching him out there and had him work a horse for us one morning. When he rode a race for us, he seemed sensible and patient, so it seemed logical to give him a shot on Ring Weekend when his regular riders were not available.”

The freshly minted team of Motion and Van Dyke will be back in action Sunday at Santa Anita when they collaborate with Hoop of Colour in the $200,000 Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. The Motion stable also has Rusty Slipper and Lady of Gold entered, while Chad Brown will run Testa Rossi and Rosalind against a local contingent topped by Diversy Harbor, Three Hearts, and Queen of The Sand.

Hoop of Colour is a daughter of Distorted Humor who began her racing in England for Lady Jane Cecil, the wife of the late Sir Henry Cecil. She won first time out in this country for Motion in a Santa Anita allowance race last month, and it was Van Dyke’s ride on the filly that essentially got him the mount on Ring Weekend. The Santa Ana may be only a Grade 2 event, but if Hoop of Colour wins, Drayden won’t be throwing it back.