09/06/2014 6:49PM

My Afleet's nose hits wire just before Medal Count in Dueling Grounds Derby


FRANKLIN, Ky. – A month after bravely winning an allowance in a hard-fought battle at Saratoga, My Afleet turned in yet another game victory Saturday in the inaugural $250,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs, turning back Medal Count by a nose in a thrilling stretch duel.

As he had in his previous two victories, My Afleet took the initiative from the start, spurting to the lead and daring the field to catch him. And though under pressure early from longshot Laddie Boy, the winner always appeared to be traveling smoothly while being kept well off the inside, over what jockey Leandro Goncalves felt was the best portion of the turf course.

The favored Medal Count, who stalked the field in mid-pack, was lying in wait, and once the field hit the stretch, he engaged My Alfleet. Medal Count surged inside and looked poised to surge clear, but ultimately could not, losing out in a head-bobbing photo.

Goncalves credited his mount’s  connections for allowing him to place front-running My Afleet in a wider path but over what he deemed was a firmer part of the course.

“They gave permission to stay three or  four wide and I did, and it worked out pretty good,” he said.

Medal Count seemed to get the better part of head bob at the finish, resulting in a photo finish that took the placing judges several minutes to decide the outcome, but in the end the judges determined he finished just behind in second.

Can’thelpbelieving rallied to be third, four lengths behind the top two finishers.

My Afleet ($19), a son of Afleet Alex trained by James L. Lawrence II, ran 1 5/16 miles on a firm course in 2:14.10. The Dueling Grounds Derby was his first stakes victory.