The greatest indication that this may be the toughest $150,000 David M. Vance Stakes in history Sunday is that Remington Park's all-time winningest horse, WELDER, has been made the 7-2 second favorite in the race.
The David M. Vance stakes goes as the 10th race Sunday right before the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby, the highlight of an eight-stakes card.
One might wonder what a horse that has won 16 times at Remington Park and twice in the David M. Vance Stakes has to do to be the favorite in the race. Upon further review it is understandable why he is behind 3-1 favorite GREELEY AND BEN.
First of all, GREELEY AND BEN beat WELDER this summer at Prairie Meadows in Iowa in an open allowance race, sprinting 6 furlongs, the same distance they will run Sunday. GREELEY AND BEN won that race by two lengths while WELDER ran third, a neck behind the runner-up. The counterpoint to that argument is that WELDER has lost to horses in Iowa before but those same horses came to Remington Park and couldn't get a sniff of WELDER here, losing to him.
Secondly, GREELEY AND BEN has won eight races in a row, including a stakes-caliber open allowance race at Remington Park on Sept. 4 when he covered 6 furlongs in 1:08.88. Granted, a summer storm was pouring down during this 7-year-old gelding's win here, causing the track to become extremely fast. That still was the fastest time of the meet for that distance. WELDER won an allowance race at Remington to etch his name into the record book on Aug. 27, covering 6 furlongs in 1:10.47, but he did it easily without much urging from jockey David Cabrera. Cabrera rode both horses to victory at Remington this fall and has chosen to ride WELDER in this Sunday's stakes race.
What makes this race even more interesting is a quote from the trainer of GREELEY AND BEN prior to the race meet at Remington began. WELDER had not won in 2021 until he broke the Remington record in August.
"WELDER is a shell of his former self," said Broberg, who conditions GREELEY AND BEN for End Zone Athletics of Mansfield, Texas. He backed off that quote somewhat after watching WELDER beat NITROUS, a winner of the $125,000 Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds, in his historic victory.
WELDER's trainer Teri Luneack, who conditions Remington's history-making 8-year-old gray gelding for owner Ra-Max Farms (Clayton Rash) of Claremore, Okla., took the high road and did not respond to that particular quote, but she always loves talking about WELDER.
"If he sets more records, that's great for him," Luneack said. "If he doesn't, that's great for him, too. I don't feel like the horse owes me or us anything. I don't feel he has anything more to prove. You have to remember 99.9 percent of the horses aren't going to run like WELDER. Any wins he gives us are a blessing. There's a million ways to lose a race and there's one way to win and all the stars have to align."
The stars have aligned for WELDER 27 times in his career in 42 races for earnings of $1,246,231. GREELEY AND BEN can't touch him in that category. He has 15 wins from 25 starts with $364,398. WELDER has won 15-of-20 starts at Remington while GREELEY AND BEN will make just his second start here.
Is it really possible that these two could go to post close to their 3-1 and 7-2 odds? It is indeed because this stakes is as deep as it could possibly be. The third favorite is NITROUS (4-1) and he could benefit from his first race when he was coming off a seven-month vacation. If he's more fit and ready for trainer Steve Asmussen's barn, he could close that gap of 1-3/4 lengths in his runner-up finish to WELDER on Aug. 27.
EMPIRE OF GOLD is next at 6-1 in the morning line. He ran fourth in the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland in 2020. Three horses at 8-1 certainly deserve recognition and consideration – LONG RANGE TODDY, winner of Remington Park's $400,000 Springboard Mile in 2018 and a participant in the Kentucky Derby that year; MR MONEY BAGS, who ran two lengths back of NITROUS in the Thanksgiving stakes at Fair Grounds, and SHARE THE UPSIDE, who finished ahead of WELDER at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., but then came to Remington Park and couldn't beat him. He is the second entry from Asmussen's barn.
Here's the field for this year's David M. Vance Stakes with post position, horse, jockey, trainer and odds:
1. Empire of Gold, Sasha Risenhoover, Terry Eoff, 6-1
2. Bybee, Leandro Goncalves, Eduardo Caramori, 15-1
3. Nitrous, Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen, 4-1
4. Long Range Toddy, Jon Court, Dallas Stewart, 8-1
5. Welder, David Cabrera, Teri Luneack, 7-2
6. Mr Money Bags, Richard Eramia, Jaylan Clary, 8-1
7. It Makes Sense, Jose Alvarez, Shawn Davis, 15-1
8. Greeley and Ben, Joe Talamo, Karl Broberg, 3-1
9. Share the Upside, Stewart Elliott, Steve Asmussen, 8-1
The Vance is scheduled to leave the starting gate at 7:37p.m. The other stakes races on the derby day program:
Race 4 - $75,000 Kip Deville Stakes, 2yo, six furlongs
Race 6 - $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial, 2-year-old fillies, 6-1/2 furlongs
Race 7 - $50,000 Flashy Lady Stakes, fillies and mares, 3 and older, six furlongs
Race 8 – Grade 3, $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1-1/16 miles
Race 9 - $75,000 Ricks Memorial, fillies and mares, 3 and older, 1-1/16 miles (turf)
Race 11 – Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby, 3-year-olds, 1-1/8 miles
Race 12 - $100,000 Remington Green, 3 and older, 1-1/8 miles (turf)
Racing continues this week with a Thursday-Sunday schedule. It's the only Sunday race day of the meet, serving as Oklahoma Derby Day. Post time is 3 p.m. on Sept. 26, while every other race night begins at 7:07 p.m. All times are Central.