Updated on 09/17/2011 10:50PM

Plots thick on meet's biggest day


English Channel takes aim at a $5 million jackpot while Spring House looks for a cleaner trip in the Grade 3, $750,000 at Colonial Downs on Saturday.

The second annual Virginia Million Day tops the biggest day of the meet at Colonial Downs. The 10-race card gets under way at 1 p.m.

It features the richest-ever Virginia Derby as well as two 1 1/8-mile grass stakes each worth $200,000: the Grade 3 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares and the Virginia Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

English Channel, with his victory in the Colonial Turf Cup on June 25, has already secured the first leg of the Jacobs Investments Grand Slam of Grass.

He can earn a total of $5 million in purse and bonus money with a sweep of the remaining legs: the 1 1/4-mile Virginia Derby; the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 13; and the Grade 1, $2 million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

English Channel has won 4 of 5 career starts, all on the grass, for trainer Todd Pletcher. He pulled away in the stretch for a 3 1/2-length victory in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup. He was the 4-5 favorite that afternoon and figures to again draw strong support.

Two other horses return from the Colonial Turf Cup: Interpatation, who encountered traffic trouble before rallying for third, and fifth-place finisher Criminal Mind.

While English Channel cruised to victory in the Colonial Turf Cup, Spring House wound up smack in the middle of the chaotic stretch run on that same afternoon in the Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park, which produced a double disqualification. Touched by Madness finished first but was placed fourth. Spring House, the runner-up, was set back to third.

Trainer John Hennig is looking forward to giving Spring House a shot at vindication in the Virginia Derby. "It's going to be the best 3-year-old grass race of the year so far," Hennig said. "We feel like we fit. His last race was a great effort."

Spring House worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01.80 Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Spring House is a closer who could appreciate the added furlong from the Kent to the Virginia Derby. Gary Stevens will ride.

Trainer Bobby Frankel entered two: Chattahoochee War, who checked hard in the stretch of the Kent and was moved up to second, and the Irish-bred Rebel Rebel, who makes his U.S. debut.

Rey de Cafe beat Prince Rahy by a nose in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park and both run again in the Virginia Derby.

Rush Bay, winner of the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs, Silver Whistle, and Crown Point complete the field.

* Rich in Spirit, winner of the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs, tops a field of eight in the Virginia Oaks.

* The All Along attracted a full field of 14, including Snowdrops, winner of the last two runnings of the Politely Stakes at Monmouth.