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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

V. I. P. Code Upsets in Private Terms


V. I. P. Code, at 36-1 the second-longest shot in a field of seven, swept to the lead turning for home and stayed there down the stretch to spring a $74.40 upset in the Private Terms at Laurel Park.

Making his third start this year and fifth straight in a stakes, V. I. P. Code, an Everest Stables Inc. homebred, earned his first career stakes victory after completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.62 over a fast main track to win by three-quarters of a length. Forest Fire, who tussled briefly with the winner at the head of the stretch, held on for second by another three-quarters over late-running 60-1 longshot Dynamic Asset.

Multiple stakes-winner Still Having Fun, the 3-5 favorite, made a brief bid to contend in mid-stretch after running last early, but he wound up fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. He was followed by Bal Harbour, Whirlin Curlin and pacesetter Roaming Union. California Night and Diamond King were scratched.

V. I. P. Code’s best stakes finish came when second in the one-mile Awad on Belmont Park’s turf course last fall. He was well-beaten in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen to cap his juvenile campaign, and was third and fifth, respectively, in Laurel’s first two races for sophomores this year, the Frank Whiteley on Jan. 27 and the Miracle Wood on Feb. 17, the latter contested on an off track.

“The credit has to go to the owner, Jeff Nielsen. I didn’t want to run the horse today,” winning trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “I wanted to run in a grass race and Jeff said, ‘No, no, let’s give it another shot.’ So if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Roaming Union was quickest from the gate and found himself in front after running the opening half-mile in 23.63 seconds and the half in 47.43. Forest Fire gave closest pursuit with Dynamic Asset settled in third along the rail and V. I. P. Code in the clear three wide under regular rider Carlos Quinones.

Still Having Fun found some early trouble when he appeared to take a funny step approaching the first turn as Roaming Union crossed in front to get position. The winner of the Whiteley and Miracle Wood wound up trailing the field for the first four furlongs.

"It looked like he clipped heels a little bit around the turn, and that didn't help us,” trainer Tim Keefe said. “We’re disappointed, obviously, but we’ll make sure he’s OK and come back and try them again.

“He seemed OK, and as much ground as he made up last time, Feargal knows him so well I didn’t worry,” he added. “It’s not where we wanted to be early, but I have to leave it in Feargal’s hands. It’s horse racing. You can have all the plans in the world and when the gates open you have to be able to adjust. We weren’t able to adjust today.”

V. I. P. Code began to move up as the field left the backstretch and ranged up on new leader Forest Fire as the two straightened for home. A chestnut son of City Zip, V. I. P. Code continued to gain ground down the lane.

“I thought I had a really good shot,” Quinones said. “The horse had been working really good in the morning so I was more comfortable riding him and he showed me he could do it.”

Schoenthal said the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes April 21 at Laurel would be the likely next target for the Triple Crown-nominated V. I. P. Code. The Tesio offers a ‘Win and You’re In’ entry to the May 19 Preakness Stakes if the winner is a Triple Crown nominee.

“I think it makes the most sense, obviously,” he said. “I’ll talk to Jeff. He likes to analyze things from all angles so we’ll take a look, but it looks like the obvious spot.”

Still Having Fun unseated Lynch on the gallop out and was taken to be unsaddled by a pony rider, but both horse and jockey were OK.

“He stumbled galloping out and Feargal just came off. He seems OK. He seems fine,” Keefe said. “We’ll make sure he’s OK and see where we go from here.”

Edited Laurel Park release

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