George J. Kerr’s Good Morning Diva turned back the persistent challenges of Dogwood Stable’s Big Screen to prevail by a neck in the 40th running of the $150,000 Calder Derby, covering the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46.96 over a track listed as ‘good.’ The race, originally scheduled for turf, was moved to the main track following heavy morning rains in the area.
Trained by David Braddy, and ridden to victory by Fernando Jara, Good Morning Diva broke sharply from post two, charging to the front for the first 50 yards before yielding the lead to an eagerly handled Late Night Action.
“(Trainer) David (Braddy) told me to just break good, and that the horse didn’t really like a lot of dirt in his face, so I just tried to get a good position and be close around the first turn,” Jara said. “It was good that the other horse (Late Night Action) came to us, because we let him go to the lead and got a good position outside of him, just waiting to move.”
Late Night Action took the field through opening fractions of :23.81 and :48.15, opening up a 1 ½-length lead on his rivals. But that margin began to dwindle as the field reached three-quarters in 1:13.19, with Good Morning Diva charging closer to the front with every stride, and an ominous looking Big Screen starting to gear up from third.
Good Morning Diva and Big Screen overtook a tiring Late Night Action at the head of the stretch, and the pair ran in tandem through the final yards, with Big Screen putting his head in front briefly, only to be repelled in the final jumps by Good Morning Diva.
“I gave him a little tap at the half-mile pole and he responded,” Jara added. “And then again at the quarter-pole, I asked, and he came again. And he just kept going. That other horse (Big Screen) came to him, and he just kept going.”
“I thought I was going to win by two,” jockey Chris Landeros, rider of Big Screen said following the race. “And then we hit the front and he got a little green on me. But he’s still learning. That’s the exciting part about him. Good things are to come.”
Sent from the gate as the 1.90-1 favorite, Good Morning Diva returned $5.80, $3.40, and $2.80 for his popular victory. Big Screen paid $4.20 and $3.60 for second. It was 7 ¼ lengths back to third-place finisher Musical Flair, who returned $7.00.
Completing the order of finish was El Romano, Csaba, Empire Builder, Late Night Action, Sinatra, and Raging Lion.
With his victory in the Calder Derby, the 3-year-old Good Morning Diva improved his record to two wins from four starts, with $113,580 in earnings. The colt was bred in Kentucky by Iadora Farm.