Long on odds, Vance Scholars makes short work of Bald Eagle Derby

August 6, 2022

Holy Boss gelding has triumphant return after long layoff

LAUREL, Md. – Steven T. Newby’s Vance Scholars, racing for the first time in 259 days, made a triumphant return to competition by springing a 12-1 upset of Saturday’s $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby in gate-to-wire fashion at Laurel Park.

The fourth running of the Bald Eagle Derby for 3-year-olds, named for the two-time Washington D.C. International winner and the nation’s champion handicap horse of 1960, was the second of two stakes rained off the turf to the main track, preceded by the 12th renewal of the $100,000 Searching for 3-year-old fillies.

Ridden by Jorge Ruiz for trainer Dale Capuano, Vance Scholars ($26.60) ran 1 3/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:58.29 to earn his third career win and first in a stakes. It was the second straight week the connections left Laurel with a stakes victory, following Justwaveandsmile’s triumph in the $75,000 Ben’s Cat July 30.

“Two-for-two,” Newby said. “What have we got next week?”

Vance Scholars, a gelded son of Holy Boss, rallied for a one-mile optional claiming allowance victory last November at Laurel before getting the winter off. He had been training steadily for his return, including a five-furlong breeze over Laurel’s turf course July 31.

“We had him ready the best that we could. His best races were going long, so that’s what we wanted to do,” Capuano said. “He worked fine on the turf [but] when it came off, it didn’t upset us. It worked out well.”

Ruiz had Vance Scholars relaxed on the front end through a quarter-mile in 24.78 seconds chased by stakes winner Undercover Kitty, looking for her third straight victory. The gap had closed but Vance Scholars was still in front after a half in 49.63 and maintained the advantage heading into the far turn.

Undercover Kitty moved up to even terms approaching the stretch and turned for home together, but Vance Scholars dug in along the inside and steadily edged clear after going a mile in 1:38.98. Undercover Kitty held second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of late-running Majestic Frontier followed by Speaking Scout, 6-5 favorite Tommy Bee and Cloud Play. Timo was scratched.

Capuano said he would have likely gotten Vance Scholars started in the Bald Eagle Derby even if it stayed on the turf. Vance Scholars has yet to race on grass.

“We would have watched the races just to see how soft it was,” he said. “When he worked last Sunday it was pretty soft and he got over it well. I think he can handle it … so we probably would have taken a shot.”

Newby said Vance Scholars is named for a scholarship program he established at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington D.C. named for 19-time Emmy Award-winning newscaster Jim Vance, who tied in 2017 at the age of 75 after a brief battle with cancer.

“A great man of very, very high character,” Newby said. “We founded and funded this program and we’ve had many, many scholarships out of it.”

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo: Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC

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