09/08/2017 11:56AM

Watch Me Whip set for turf debut in wide-open Dueling Grounds Derby

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Watch Me Whip, shown winning his maiden April 14, has finished off the board in both of his stakes races.

FRANKLIN, Ky. – One need look no further than the Dueling Grounds Derby to see why Kentucky Downs has become so popular with bettors. A deep field with numerous contenders makes the $350,000 race a microcosm of the abbreviated meet.

“It’s a really tough race, but we’re in there with a shot,” said Dale Romans, who will give Robby Albarado a leg up on Watch Me Whip before the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Derby is run on a terrific 10-race Sunday card at this turf-only track.

Watch Me Whip, for all his promise, will be making his grass debut, and faces others with plenty of experience over the surface. One of those in the field of 11 3-year-olds is Parlor, who has shown enough to be listed as a lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite. Parlor comes off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

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“He’s had a race over the course, which hopefully will prove to be an advantage,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally, referring to the colt’s narrow miss last fall in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. “He’s had a good 3-year-old year, won a couple of nice races. He comes out of a very good race, and he’s done just great since then.”

The Dueling Grounds Derby and its sister race, the $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, are highlights of a Sunday program that also includes back-to-back starter allowances (races 6-7) which serve as lead-ins to the Dec. 2 Claiming Crown. Two $140,000 allowances (races 3, 5) and three $130,000 maiden special weights (races 2, 4, 10) also are on tap. All non-claiming/starter purses at Kentucky Downs include substantial bonuses for registered Kentucky-breds.

First post is 1:25 p.m. Central, with the derby going as race 9 at 5:27 Eastern and the Oaks directly preceding it as race 8 at 4:54. Dueling Grounds is what this track was called for most of the 1990s, so named for the legal gun duels that took place on this property in the 1800s.

After Sunday, just one day remains at the five-day Kentucky Downs meet, with the Ramsey Farm and Franklin-Simpson stakes serving as co-features Thursday. Churchill Downs opens an 11-day meet Friday.

KEY CONTENDERS

Watch Me Whip, by Smart Strike
Last 3 Beyers: 85-81-74

◗ The surface is the obvious question for a colt who has been held in very high regard by Romans since romping in his April debut at Keeneland.

Parlor, by Lonhro
Last 3 Beyers: 87-85-81

◗ This colt has gone 3 for 3 in non-stakes races, and some of his efforts against outstanding company have strongly suggested that he is capable of becoming a stakes winner.

Gorgeous Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy
Last 3 Beyers: 82-82-82

◗ This late-running colt was scratched from the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Saturday to stay home as one of the multitude of Mike Maker-trained runners on this card.

Giant Payday, by Giant’s Causeway
Last 3 Beyers: 83-83-79

◗ This improving colt wheels back 15 days after winning the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park for Ian Wilkes, who has enjoyed a terrific start to the meet.

Bronson, by Medaglia d’Oro
Last 3 Beyers: 81-81-80

◗ Formerly trained by Todd Pletcher, this gray colt now represents the Maker stable.