07/16/2010 12:00AM

Paddy O'Prado a rising star on turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Paddy O'Prado, impressive winning the Colonial Turf Cup last month, returns to Colonial Downs for Saturday's Virginia Derby.

The splendor of the Colonial Downs grass was never more evident to Dale Romans than when Paddy O'Prado won over the highly acclaimed course last month. An eye-catching victory in the June 19 Colonial Cup not only confirmed the class Paddy O'Prado had shown in the Triple Crown series, but stamped him as a potential turf star.

Now comes the Grade 2, $600,000 Virginia Derby on Saturday at Colonial Downs, and Romans is hoping to see Paddy O'Prado take another major step in that direction.

"His race in the Colonial Cup was awesome," said Romans, who trains Paddy O'Prado for Donegal Racing. "We're extremely encouraged. Hopefully, he'll run that kind of race right back. He sure has trained well since then, so we're optimistic."

Third in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness, Paddy O'Prado will be favored with Kent Desormeaux back aboard in the 1 1/4-mile Virginia Derby, which drew seven other 3-year-olds. The top threats appear to be Interactif and Krypton, while another Triple Crown participant, Stately Victor, rates a decent upset chance as he switches surfaces.

"His dirt races just weren't up to par," trainer Mike Maker said of Stately Victor, eighth in both the Derby and Belmont Stakes. "But he's run well on Polytrack and the grass before. We're looking for him to improve."

Ramon Dominguez, who has the call on Stately Victor, is the lone previous winner of the Virginia Derby among the eight jockeys in the race, having triumphed in 1999 aboard Phi Beta Doc.

Interactif also stands to improve over a seventh-place Belmont finish as he returns to grass, his preferred surface. Krytpon, meanwhile, is in fine form, having won the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont last out.

Outsiders in the field are Two Notch Road, Majestictroubador, Awesome Dream, and Formulaforsuccess.

The Virginia Derby goes as the 12th of 14 races while anchoring easily the biggest day of the year at Colonial, where some 8,000 ontrack fans are expected. Four other supporting stakes also are on tap, led by the Grade 3, $150,000 Virginia Oaks.

First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the Virginia Derby going at 6.