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HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/8/06)

Contact: DAK Productions
(708) 222-4540

SWEETNORTHERNSAINT WINS ILLINOIS DERBY

STICKNEY, Ill. (April 8, 2006) --- Joseph J. Balsamo & Ted Theos’s Sweetnorthernsaint solidified his chances to earn a starting berth in next month’s Kentucky Derby with an emphatic 9 ¼-length victory in the Grade II Illinois Derby, the signature race of the National Jockey Club meeting at Hawthorne Race Course. Kent Desormeaux rode the Michael Trombetta-trained colt, who covered the mile and an eighth over a fast track in 1:49.82.

The son of Sweetsouthernsaint finished third in the Grade III Gotham Stakes in his last start and needed a solid performance here in order to ensure he had enough graded stakes earnings to make the starting lineup for the Kentucky Derby on May 6. The $300,000 winner’s share for the Illinois Derby gives him graded stakes earnings of $320,000 and career earnings of $377,000 while his record improved to three wins and a third from six starts.

“This horse improved leaps and bounds since the last time I rode him,” said Desormeaux, who earned his third Illinois Derby victory after capturing the race in 1997 with Wild Rush and last year with Greeley’s Galaxy. “Michael said don’t give up on him. He’s really a great horse and he strutted that stuff today. With today’s situation, his tactical speed and the outside post, now I became the boss of the field and controlled the pace to my horse’s liking. As we rounded the first turn, he had already pricked his ears, both his antennae were up. He was gathering the horses in front of him wanting to go after them. I asked him gingerly not to and he was attentive.

“Michael has done a great job with this horse,” Desormeaux continued when asked about the horse’s chances in the upcoming Triple Crown races. “I’ll tell you right now, the (mile and a half) Belmont would probably be the easiest thing for this horse. He’s going to enjoy distance. The mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby is the classic distance and I think it’s right between his eyes.”

Trombetta had been looking at both the Illinois Derby and the Wood Memorial for Sweetnorthernsaint and was already en route to Hawthorne when the complexion of the Wood changed with the defections of Showing Up and Like Now.

“After those two horses backed out of the Wood, (NYRA Racing Secretary) P. J. Campo called me to see how far along the van was,” Trombetta said. “I told him we were already here and this is where we were running. This race was a race that we looked at way back when and I wanted to be a part of it. It worked out well. He’s a very talented individual. There was always a question of rate-ability. He showed today he can do whatever (Desormeaux) wants him to do. I hope we’re in Louisville four weeks from now. If he’s doing well, we’d love to be a part of (The Derby).”

California invader Mister Triester set the pace in the race through moderate fractions of 23.52, 48.06 and 1:13.10. Sweetnorthernsaint, despite breaking from the outside post in the 10-horse field, tracked the pace before surging to the front at the top of the stretch and drawing off for the easy score.

“I thought that there would be a little more pace today but when nobody went I made the lead easily,” said Brice Blanc, who rode pacesetter Mister Triester. “We went the first half in :48. He was so comfortable. He finished out good but the other horse drew away from us. Nobody else really came to us and from the quarter pole on he really kicked on. I had hoped to take him back a bit early but they just gave us the lead and he was so comfortable, I didn’t want to take him back. He did have a good trip.”

Cause to Believe, the morning line favorite and second choice in the wagering ran third.

“I was hoping that there would be a little more speed in there,” said Cause to Believe’s rider, Russell Baze. “They kind of walked along on the lead in front of us and my horse likes to make a late move when horses in front of us are getting tired and those horses just didn’t get tired because they didn’t go fast enough. My horse ran his race but he just wasn’t good enough today.”

Lewis Michael, Malameeze, Racketeer, My Golden Song, Creative Force, Itsallaboutthechase and Devilofarush completed the order of finish.

Sweetnorthernsaint returned $4.60, $3.20 and $3. Mister Triester paid $19 and $8. Cause to Believe paid $2.60.

Quotes for the Illinois Derby

Kent Desormeaux (winner, Sweetnorthernsaint) : “This horse improved leaps and bounds since the last time I rode him. Michael (Trombetta, the trainer) said don’t give up on him. He’s really a great horse and he strutted that stuff today. With today’s situation (10-post draw), his tactical speed and the outside post, now I became the boss of the field and controlled the pace to my horse’s liking. As we rounded the first turn, he had already pricked his ears, both his antennae were up. He was gathering the horses in front of him wanting to go after them. I asked him gingerly not to and he was attentive. Michael has done a great job with this horse. He’s been well trained. (On the Kentucky Derby) I’ll tell you right now, the Belmont would probably be the easiest thing for this horse. He’s going to enjoy distance. The mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby is the classic distance and I think it’s right between his eyes.”

Michael Trombetta (trainer of winner, Sweetnorthernsaint): “We were looking at both races (IL Derby and Wood Memorial). This was a race that we looked at way back when and I wanted to be a part of it. It worked out well. He’s a very talented individual. There was always a question of rate-ability. He showed today, he can do what ever that man (jockey Desormeaux) wants him to do. I hope we’re in Louisville four weeks from now. If he’s doing well, we’d love to be a part of it (The Derby). We’ll take him back to Maryland tomorrow (Sunday) morning. I left the strategy up to Kent. He had the benefit of riding him once. After those two horses backed out of the Wood, P. J. Campo called me to see how far along the van was. I told him we were already here and this is where we were running.”

Pat Valenzuela (rider of #8 Rackateer): “Up the backside he acted like he was going to go somewhere but he just flattened out in the stretch.”

Glen Stute (trainer of 2nd place finisher Mister Triester): “The kid did a heck of a job. I didn’t really want him to go to the front but sometimes things don’t always work out the way you want. The horse ran a very good race.”

Russell Baze, (rider, 3rd place Cause To Believe), “I was hoping that there would be a little more speed in there. They kind of walked along on the lead in front of us and my horse likes to make a late move when horses in front of us are getting tired and those horses just didn’t get tired because they didn’t go fast enough. My horse ran his race but he just wasn’t good enough today.

Brice Blanc, (rider 2nd Mister Triester)’ I thought that there would be a little more pace today but when nobody went I made the lead easily. We went the first half in :48. He was so comfortable. He finished out good but the other horse drew away from us. Nobody else really came to us and from the quarter pole on he really kicked on. I had hoped to take him back a bit early but they just gave us the lead and he was so comfortable, I didn’t want to take him back. He did have a good trip.

Chris DeCarlo, (rider, My Golden Song), “My horse ranged up there nicely around the turn. It was when they straightened out he didn’t pick it up as he normally would but maybe today was just a clunker.

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