River Deep
River Deep won the 2018 Hansel Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

River Deep, winner of the 2019 Edward P. Evans Stakes, will try to defend his title Wednesday at Colonial Downs against six other Virginia-bred/sired horses including Todd Pletcher trainee Largent and 2019 Jamestown Stakes winner Embolden. The $60,000 one-mile turf stakes has been carded as the eighth race.  

Morgan Ford Farms’ River Deep won last year’s Evans courtesy of a disqualification when initial first-place finisher Speed Gracer was tagged for interference and placed fourth. Forest Boyce will ride the Phil Schoenthal trainee who enters with a bankroll of $298,130. The 6-year-old Arch gelding has a won pair of other Virginia-bred stakes — the Bert Allen and Hansel, both in 2018. 

Dare To Dream Stables’ Embolden has earned top-three finishes in all six of his starts. The 3-year-old colt by The Factor will make his 2020 debut Wednesday. He wrapped up his 2019 campaign with a third in Remington’s Springboard MiIe and preceded that with runner-up finishes in the Atlantic Beach Stakes and the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes at Aqueduct and Belmont respectively. Trevor McCarthy, Colonial’s leading rider last year, has the mount for trainer Mike Stidham. Embolden was bred by Nancy Terhune and Ernest Frohboese.  

Twin Creeks Racing and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Largent brings an impressive resume into the Evans. The 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding is fresh off an allowance optional claiming win March 28 at Gulfstream. In five starts he has three wins and two seconds with earnings of $98,670. Largent, who was bred by Lazy Lane Farms, is 3-for-3 on turf. 

Also in the field are Black Prong, who was third in the Evans last year; Fionnbharr; Carbon Data; and Ismusbemyluckyday. 

Six Virginia-bred/sired horses will compete in the $60,000 Camptown Stakes including 2019 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes winner What the Beep, Jamestown Stakes runner-up Bella Aurora and New York/New Jersey invader Tan and Tight. The 5 1/2-furlong turf test for fillies and mares three and up is the fourth race on the card.   

Eagle Point Farm’s What the Beep enters 2020 action with a bankroll of $153,503. Jockey Forest Boyce, who directed the winning Gilpin effort last year, will be up again. Trainer Karen Godsey’s home bred, a 5-year-old Great Notion mare, finished fourth in last year’s Camptown. What The Beep is 3-for-7 on turf. 

Country Life Farms’ Bella Aurora is the highest money earner in the field with $154,140. The 3-year-old Carpe Diem filly capped off 2019 with a win in Laurel’s Gin Talking Stakes. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and trained by Mike Trombetta, Bella Aurora will be ridden by Keiber Coa.     

e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Tan and Tight is trained by Mike Stidham and gets the services of jockey Trevor McCarthy. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly powered home in a maiden special weight January 19 at Aqueduct over a sloppy track. She returned to turf in her only start since — a tight runner-up at Monmouth July 5. Overall, she has finished second in all three of her career turf starts. Tan and Tight was bred by Jim and Katie Fitzgerald. 

Rounding out the field are Solarte, Camptown runner-up in 2019; Determined Love; and Chasing Midnight. 

One day earlier on Tuesday, July 28, the $40,000 Hansel Stakes, open to Virginia-bred, sired and certified two-year-old horses, will be contested at 5 1/2 dirt furlongs as the fourth race. Only three of the eight horses — Natural Attraction, Merchant of Hope and morning-line favorite Sky’s Not Falling have started previously and each won their maiden special weight debuts. The last named was bred in Maryland by Larry Johnson and won his five-furlong bow at Delaware July 1. The Seville gelding is trained by Mike Trombetta and will be ridden by Keiber Coa. 

Second choice in the morning line is David Ross’ Guillaume, a Kentucky-bred colt by Hard Spun. Trevor McCarthy will ride for trainer Mike Stidham. Ross, whose stable name is DARRS, Inc., was leading owner at Colonial last year with five victories. 

Others entered include a pair of Susan Cooney-trained Virginia-breds, Stay In and Canherun. Dare to Promise and Alpha Queue round out the field.