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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (3/15/07)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 780-3700

Top Trainers and Horses Giving Illinois Derby a Long Look

The 50th running of the Illinois Derby on April 7 is shaping up to be one of the most contentious prep races of the year, as trainers and owners of many of the top 3-year-old colts appear headed to Hawthorne Race Course. The mile and an eighth Grade 2 event carries a purse of $500,000 and will be broadcast live on NBC.

California-based trainer Doug O’Neill has 5 horses nominated to the Illinois Derby, among them San Rafael (G2) winner, Notional, plus his barn’s speedy Forty Grams. The nation’s leading trainer Todd Pletcher is considering starting the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) runner up Sam P who was recently added to Churchill’s Kentucky Derby future pool lineup.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has a full brother to 1999 Illinois Derby winner Vision and Verse named Sacrifice Bunt, who has been nominated this year and is hoping to stamp himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender on April 7.

Kentucky-based trainer Ken McPeek, no stranger to the Illinois Derby, saddled 2002 favorite Repent to a second place finish behind the eventual Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem. He is aiming his latest prospect Bold Start toward the Illinois Derby. Fresh off a fast closing second in the Hutcheson Stakes (G2), McPeek believes he has a talented horse just beginning to reach his potential and looks for the son of Jump Start to continue improving. “I always thought this horse had the talent, we just keep looking for a way to harness it,” McPeek stated.

“Kent (jockey Kent Desormeaux) also thinks highly of the horse and if we can get Kent to ride him back, we should be there for the Illinois Derby.” Desormeaux would be looking to put together an Illinois Derby hat trick having won the last two with Greeley’s Galaxy in 2005 and Sweetnorthernsaint in 2006. Bold Start will also be attempting two turns for the first time this year, but the veteran trainer believes this is a test worth taking. “We have to find out if we have a serious Kentucky Derby contender and I think his performance in the Illinois Derby might determine that.”

With a potential trip to the Kentucky Derby hanging on the outcome of the 50th running of the Illinois Derby, the first Saturday in April may be as exciting as the first Saturday in May.

Hawthorne Race Course is scheduled to conduct 119 Thoroughbred and 39 harness live programs in 2007. Located at Cicero or Laramie Avenues at 35th Street, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at www.hawthorneracecourse.com.

 

 

 

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