After taking air for over a half-mile, Validus Deo looked finished coming off the last turn. But he regrouped in the stretch and rallied to win in close quarters at the wire to capture the $10,000 Open Handicap pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday evening (Sept. 1).
Bugatti (Billy Davis Jr.) outdueled Heaven Rocks (Ray Fisher Jr.) for the lead off the gate and had the front by the quarter in :27.2. Positions remained unchanged until the half when Validus Deo (Kevin Cummings) pulled first from fourth and started up the rim. As he advanced towards the leader he forced Heaven Rocks out of the two-hole and found himself with live cover for the rest of the race. Buggati and Heaven Rocks continued to battle up the backstretch and around the far turn and looked like the two to beat as Validus Deo was fading away from the action.
But heading into the stretch, Focus Power (Drew Monti) tipped three-wide and pulled next to Validus Deo and rekindled the latter’s interest in the proceedings. Cummings continued heavy prompting during the final eighth and Validus Deo split horses mid-stretch and hit the wire first by a neck in 1:54.4.
It was the third win in the last five starts and eighth win of the year for Validus Deo ($6.30), who now has earned $552,307 lifetime. Matthew Rosiek, Robert Johnson and his driver-trainer Kevin Cummings own Validus Deo.
In the undercard event, the $9,000 Open II, China Dream (John Cummings Jr.) followed up a second-place finish last week, coming off a two-month hiatus, with a winning effort. He went gate to wire and held off a late charge from the pocket-sitting R M Hawk (Ray Fisher Jr.) in the lane to win in 1:54.1, tying his seasonal best.
China Dream ($3.60) scored his fifth win of the year for owners Jack and Maria Rice. Maria Rice is the winner’s conditioner.
For the second straight night, Drew Monti scored a driving Grand Slam on the nine-race card. Monti won with Sunset Sid (1:55.1, $3.30), Linkjack Hanover (1:53.3, $6.30), Littlebitaclass (1:55.1, $3.30) and Arch Hanover (1:57.3, $9.00). With those four wins Monti now jumps into the lead in the dash win category for the meet ahead of Kevin Cummings (who had one winner on Saturday) 42 to 40. Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Labor Day Monday (Sept. 3) with a special matinee card that has a 1:15 p.m. post time. (Batavia)