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HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/5/05)

Contact: Jim Miller
(708) 780-3700

Wide Open Field for Illinois Derby

STICKNEY, IL -- With few standouts to emerge on the Kentucky Derby trail, a field of nine will be headed to Hawthorne on Saturday to see if they are the next to jump up and make a splash in the three-year-old division. To be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the Illinois Derby has quickly become one of the top prep races for the Kentucky Derby and looks to be once again this year.

In 2002, War Emblem came off a win in the Illinois Derby and catapulted himself to wins in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness while on his way to national honors as the Eclipse Award winner as top three-year-old for that year. In 2003, Ten Most Wanted vaulted himself into the national spotlight with his win in the Illinois Derby. After a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, he went on to run second in the Belmont and win the Travers and Super Derby during his three-year-old campaign.

The 2004 champ, Pollard’s Vision went onto the Kentucky Derby off his Illinois Derby win and posted wins later in the year in the Grade 3 Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware and the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby. This year’s field looks to vault more runners into the Kentucky Derby scene as well.

Kansas City Boy is still looking for his first stakes win, but it could very easily come in the Illinois Derby for trainer Kenny McPeek as he’s the morning line favorite. Taking a bit of time to round into form, Kansas City Boy closed out his 2004 season with a 8 ¼ length maiden victory at Churchill. After a couple of months off, he posted a game effort in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, beaten only a neck for the win.

He followed that start up with a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream before most recently coming off a flat effort after a wide trip in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in his last start. Looking to get back on track in the Illinois Derby, Kansas City Boy is 7-2 in the morning line. He’ll be ridden by Chris Emigh.

Second choice in the Illinois Derby is Patrick Byrne’s Magna Graduate. Owned by Elisabeth Alexander, Magna Graduate has faced many of the top three-year-olds in the country with some success. After winning two of his first four starts as a two-year-old, he jumped into the stakes ranks with a fifth place effort in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, won by Greater Good, to close out his two-year-old season.

In his first start at three, he ran a good third behind Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner High Fly in the Aventura at Gulfstream. Moving North to Kentucky off that start, he posted a strong win over Pavo in the John Battaglia Memorial and most recently finished fourth in the Grade 2 Lanes End at Turfway on March 26. Ridden by Eddie Razo Jr, Magna Graduate is 4-1 in the morning line.

A couple of sleepers pop up for their first stakes starts in the Illinois Derby as both Greeley’s Galaxy and Rikman may jump onto the Derby trail. Owned by B Wayne Hughes and trained by Warren Stute, Greeley’s Galaxy makes the cross-country trek from California as he looks for the Illinois Derby upset. The lightly-raced chestnut colt broke his maiden while sprinting in the slop at Santa Anita on February 19 before stretching out in his next race. That stretch in distance really woke him up as he rated close to the pace the entire way before drawing away to a four-length victory while going 1 1/16 miles in his next start against allowance runners at Santa Anita. He looks for a similar trip today. Greeley’s Galaxy will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux and is 9-2 in the morning line.

Rikman comes from the Billy Mott barn and is looking to make a splash in the Illinois Derby as well. Owned by Peter Vegso, Rikam broke his maiden for $50,000 at Aqueduct in his final start of his two-year-old season. Facing tough allowance company off that race, he posted a pair of wins from his most recent three starts, most recently beating optional claiming company in his last at the Illinois Derby’s 1 1/8 mile distance. That win may be the key for Rikman as he is the only Illinois Derby entrant to win at the race’s distance. Heriberto Castillo Jr. is in to ride Rikman. He is listed at 5-1 in the morning line.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has many top three-year-olds running across the country that are well-renowned, but one that is just getting into form comes off the bench for him as Monarch Lane makes his third career start in the Illinois Derby. After breaking his maiden with a 5 ¾ length score in January at Gulfstream, Monarch Lane stretched out to finish third in a mile race against allowance company in his next start on February 26. Working easily leading into the Debry, Monarch Lane will be ridden by Chris DeCarlo and is 6-1 in the morning line.

Trainer Elliot Walden is no stranger to Hawthorne as he has sent many stakes winners here in the past and looks for another with Unbridled Energy. Another runner that is lightly raced, Unbridled Energy tries two turns for the first time in the Illinois Derby. He comes in off some extremely good workouts. A debut winner last October at Turfway, Unbridled Energy was sent to Gulfstream for the winter where he got a pair of starts under his belt. After a troubled trip in his first start of the year, he came back to post a 1 ¾ length win against allowance runners on March 16 while running 7 ½ furlongs. Bred for the distance, Unbridled’s Energy will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and is 6-1 in the morning line.

Daddy Joe tries to pull out the upset in the Illinois Derby for trainer Jennifer Pedersen as he looks to be a pace threat in the race. Taking five starts to break his maiden, Daddy Joe posted back-to-back wins, winning an allowance race in his next start. Jumping into the stakes ranks, he was no factor in the Whirlaway and Horatius in his next two starts, but the two-turns woke him up in his last when he went to the front and almost wired the field while running second in the Rushaway at Turfway. Norberto Arroyo Jr. comes to ride Daddy Joe. He is 10-1 in the morning line.

Trainer Niall O’Callaghan sends in Medigating, making his second start off a rest after running in the Tampa Bay Derby in his last start. Rating close in that race, he tired a bit in the lane, finishing fourth in only his second start on the dirt. Jockey Larry Melancon, who rode him two starts back while running second in the Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds on January 29, rides again. Medigating is 12-1 in the morning line.

The local hopes in the Illinois Derby ride with Win Me Over as he starts for owner Nancy Vanier and trainer Brian Williamson. Familiar with the Hawthorne strip, Win Me Over has never missed the board in six starts here but faces his toughest company yet in the Illinois Derby. Finishing second in his last start in the Flag Officer, Win Me Over will be ridden by 2002 Illinois Derby champion jock Larry Sterling Jr and is 20-1 in the morning line.

Live racing for the spring meet takes place from February 25 to May 10. Racing is conducted every Friday through Tuesday with first post at 1:10 PM. For any questions, our Group Sales office can be contacted at 708-780-7050 and general questions can be directed to 708-780-3700. Visit Hawthorne on the web at www.hawthorneracecourse.com.

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