BREEDERS’ CUP: VIRGINIA-BASED OWNER DAVID ROSS HAS “EXTRAVAGANT” HOPES
When Extravagant Kid breaks out of the starting gate in the $1 Million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland this Saturday, it will be the second “Cup” start ever for David Ross, who is a Virginia businessman, President of the Virginia HBPA, and Colonial Downs’ all-time leading owner.
Ross is hoping to follow the success of what Breeze Easy LLC’s Four Wheel Drive did in 2019 when he parlayed a win in the Rosie’s Stakes at Colonial into a victory in a Breeders’ Cup race — the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Ross’s 7-year-old Kiss The Kid gelding won the Da Hoss Stakes in Colonial’s 2019 “Racing Revival” season — under new ownership of the Colonial Downs Group — and is hoping for a similar ending, albeit a year later.
To date, Ross’s sprinter has 14 wins from 45 career starts and lifetime earnings of $902,210. The Florida-bred has won six stakes including the Sunshine Millions Sprint this past January and most recently, finished second in a pair of Grade 2 stakes — the Woodford at Keeneland and the Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill.
Ross, a Pittsburgh area native, began dabbling in horse ownership through partnerships in 1989 then in 2004, went solo and started racing in Virginia among other states. Ross’s stable has earned over $1.2 million in five different years. In 2007, he ranked 19th in the country by wins and that came in the middle of a seven-year run at Colonial where he was leading owner (2005-2011). He has won a total of 137 races at the New Kent track and was even leading owner last year in its return after six years of dormancy. Overall, Ross — whose current stable name is DARRS, Inc. — has made 2,302 starts, reached the winners circle 424 times and amassed earnings of $14,301,132.
A businessman based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Ross has accumulated nine graded stakes wins with Honorable Duty (New Orleans Handicap, Mineshaft Handicap, Lukas Classic Stakes), Scuba (Marathon Stakes, Greenwood Cup Stakes, Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap), Proforma (Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint), Bye Bye Bernie (Nearctic Stakes) and Perfect Officer (Shakertown Stakes), who went on to finish third in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
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Ross came even closer to winning a Breeders’ Cup race, but his timing was off by two years. The Marathon Stakes, which his Scuba won in 2016 by 4 1/4 lengths, had been an official “Cup” race until 2014 when it was discontinued and renamed the Marathon Stakes. It has been held since as a Breeders’ Cup undercard event. This year, Ross will be back on the under card with his Kentucky-bred Militiaman in the newly named 13-furlong, Grade Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (formerly the Marathon Stakes). But more importantly, he will be on the “Cup” card too with his versatile turf sprinter.
He feels Extravagant Kid is well suited for almost any variable he could encounter on November 7.
“We’re excited about the prospects,” said Ross. “We know he won’t be the favorite but he has an enormously good running style and a strategic ability to be able to stalk the pace or stay a little bit off the pace. He has that burst of energy that can bring him home. In a sprint anything can happen.”
Ross and his trainer Brendan Walsh have opted to use a jockey who hasn’t ridden him in the past. Umberto Rispoli, who up until this year had ridden primarily in Italy, France and Hong Kong, will have the mount. “My trainers, Michael Stidham and Brendan (Walsh), have been talking about him as being perhaps one of the best turf riders out there today,” Ross said. “He has the skill set to be able to make a move with the horse at the perfect time. We are excited to have him ride for us. Having a jockey with great instincts is a big key.”
Ross acquired Extravagant Kid in 2018. “He’s been a great success story. He’s the best chance we’ve ever had to win a Breeders’ Cup race. He could be as good as there is. To win, there are so many variables involved like post position, position early in the race, position in the middle of the race and the ability to get out late in the race,” added Ross. “Another big factor is the track surface. Is there a little give to it, is there a little moisture in it, or is it a firm turf. We’re confident Extravagant Kid can succeed utilizing any racing style and on any type of surface. Brendan has handled him masterfully and has had him ready to go in every race he has performed in.”
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When Colonial Downs reopened in 2019 after a six-year absence, Extravagant Kid provided a key meet highlight by winning the Da Hoss Stakes. “Every race is important, especially stakes when the level of competition increases, so we could not have been happier to send him to Colonial and spend a few days there,” said Ross. “To see him run so well in the Da Hoss and win convincingly was special. Sheldon (Russell) gave him a perfect trip to get that victory. He recorded one of his best speed figures in that race.”
Ross won the Da Hoss for the second time. His Pass Play reached the winners circle twelve years earlier in the same stakes.
Ironically, Da Hoss himself has special meaning to Virginia racing fans. After winning the first of two Breeders’ Cup Miles in 1996, he took a two-year break. In October, 1998, he prepped for his final “Cup” start in a turf allowance at Colonial and won by less than a length over John’s Call. Four weeks after the New Kent win, the Gone West gelding won his second “Cup Mile” at Churchill, then retired.
Reminiscing this week, Ross said he could not even dream of being in his current position when he got into the business.
“We’ve gone from running in lower level claiming races early on and getting an understanding of how that part of the business works, to breeding and acquiring horses that have an ability to run at higher levels,” he said. “Our focus has been on the turf and it’s great to see Colonial, which may have the best turf course in the country, back in action and using that great surface again.”