Core Values Beats The Boys To Take Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby

Core Values won her third straight race and this time beat males as BBN Racing’s late-running 3-year-old filly got up on the last stride to the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby by a nose over favored Royal Prince at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. It was another neck back to pacesetter Modern Science.

“She likes to make it close every time,” said winning trainer Vicki Oliver, who wound up winning three races on the card. “But she seems to get her head in front at the wire.”

Oliver used the turf stakes as a stepping stone to the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks at 1 5/16 miles on Kentucky Downs’ Sept. 5 opening card. While she could have used the $100,000 Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Dueling Grounds Oaks for the same purpose, Oliver wanted the extra sixteenth-mile distance.

“We were thinking about the Pucker Up (at Arlington Park In Arlington Heights, Ill.) next weekend,” she said. “But we felt we’d gain a week coming here before Kentucky Downs and half the ship. And a mile and an eighth made more sense than the mile and a sixteenth for fillies. So we decided to run her against the boys.”

Jockey Rafael Bejarano had Core Values back in last in the field of seven 3-year-olds, flying through the stretch to get up by a nod at the finish while covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.94 over firm turf. She paid $24.40 as the longest shot on the board.

Core Values earned her first victory on dirt last winter in Tampa. After a pair of double-digit defeats, Oliver put her back on the turf, which the filly had tried in her second start. Core Values reeled off an allowance victory at Indiana Grand and then took Arlington Park’s Hatoof Stakes by a head.

“My horse did win the last two times in easy races,” Bejarano said. “She really didn’t like it much the last time she ran on the dirt. When she ran on the turf, she looked tremendous. Today, I just wanted to relax in the beginning and make my own ground. By the three-eighths pole, when I had my position, I started to ask her for more and she responded and gave me a good kick. I wanted to make sure we were clear in the stretch. When I came up to the favored horse, I knew we were going to beat him.”

Core Values, a daughter of Honor Code, now is 4-0-0 in eight starts, earning $141,377 with the $60,570 payday.

Oliver said she was confident of a big performance.

“I liked that it was a small enough field, there was enough speed for her and pace for her to close into,” she said. “So I did like our chances. And we had five pounds on the boys. That’s a big deal going a mile and an eighth.”

But was Oliver confident at the wire that she’d won?

“I thought we had it the whole way until I walked down here and everybody said, ‘I don’t think you got it,’” she said. “So yeah, I was until everyone second-guessed that we got there.”

Brian Hernandez Jr., aboard the Brad Cox-trained Royal Prince, said he wasn’t sure who’d won the race.

“It was really close,” he said. “Because that horse went by me pretty good, and then my horse took off again like he was going to get back by. We just weren’t sure at the wire.”

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