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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/5/07)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542
Bob Wolff (630) 325-2000 x224


CHICAGO – Looking to punch their tickets to Louisville for next month’s Kentucky Derby, a field of nine three-year-olds will meet in Saturday’s 50th running of the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. Merv Griffin’s Cobalt Blue has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the Grade II event that will be contested at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Doug O’Neill will have two representatives in the race. He also entered Leatherman Racing LLC and Jason Wood’s Family Talk.

The field includes graded stakes winner Cowtown Cat, who is owned by WinStar Farm and Gulf Coast Farms; stakes winner Catman Running, the pride and joy of Joe Harris; and stakes-placed Bold Start, owned by Lawrence Carroll. Other starters include:’s (Ron Peltz) Love Dubai; Silver Wing Stable’s (John Gerbas, Jr.) Quite Acceptable; Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Reporting for Duty; and Bruce Lunsford’s Sacrifice Bunt. All starters will carry 122 lbs. and the winner’s share of the purse is $300,000.

The Illinois Derby will serve as race 7 of an 11-race card that begins at 1:10 pm. NBC-TV will televise the race locally on WMAQ-TV with post time set at 4:11 pm.

Victorious in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 17, Cobalt Blue – with stablemate Family Talk – arrived at Hawthorne last Sunday. Cobalt Blue, a $325,000 yearling purchase, has won 3 of 4 lifetime starts for earnings of $207,000, tops in the field. After opening the year with a pace-stalking allowance win at Santa Anita on Feb. 14, the Golden Missile colt led virtually every step of the way in the San Felipe. Victor Espinoza, who was aboard for the San Felipe win, will be in the saddle again.

America’s leading trainer Todd Pletcher entered Cowtown Cat in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct but decided to ship the Distorted Humor colt to Chicago once Any Given Saturday arrived at Aqueduct today for his appearance in the Wood. After a win and a third in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream, Pletcher sent Cowtown Cat back to New York where he responded with an impressive victory in the Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 10. Eighteen-year-old jockey Fernando Jara will ride.

Bold Start comes into the Illinois Derby off a troubled second-place finish in the Grade II Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream on March 3. After opening the season with a January allowance win, he faltered and finished sixth in the Holy Bull Stakes before rebounding in the Hutcheson. Trainer Ken McPeek has named Larry Melancon to ride the son of Jump Start, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last July.

Catman Running is a perfect 2-for-2 in 2007 with both scores at Turfway Park. Successful in a Jan. 27 allowance tally, the Tactical Cat colt used his tactical speed to capture the Battaglia Memorial Stakes on March 3. He is 3-for-4 lifetime for trainer Eric Reed.

The rest of the field provides some interesting scenarios. Love Dubai will be making his first U.S. start after winning his last three races in England. While his last two tallies have proven he can go a distance of ground, he has not raced since Jan. 29. Quite Acceptable won the local prep event for the Derby by annexing the War Emblem Stakes at Hawthorne on March 18. Trainer Shannon Ritter has won 3 of 4 starts with the gelding.

Reporting for Duty is trainer Steve Asmussen’s hope. The Deputy Commander colt scored his lone win in a maiden race at Hawthorne last September. This year, he’s been runner-up in three consecutive Fair Grounds allowance tests, including a three-length loss to eventual Louisiana Derby runner-up Ketchikan on Feb. 16. Trainer Bill Mott is hoping for a little local karma with Sacrifice Bunt. The Storm Cat colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream on Jan. 12 before finishing a troubled fifth in an allowance race on March 3. He’s also a full brother to 1999 Illinois Derby winner Vision and Verse.

50th Running of the Grade II $500,000 Illinois Derby

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Sacrifice Bunt William Mott Jesse M. Campbell 12-1
2 Bold Start Ken McPeek Larry Melancon 9-2
3 Reporting for Duty Steve Asmussen Christopher A. Emigh 15-1
4 Cowtown Cat Todd Pletcher Fernando Jara 5-2
5 Cobalt Blue Doug O’Neill Victor Espinoza 9-5
6 Quite Acceptable Shannon Ritter Ramsey Zimmerman 20-1
7 Catman Running Eric Reed Willie Martinez 8-1
8 Family Talk Doug O’Neill Terry J. Thompson 20-1
9 Love Dubai Michael Maker Miguel Mena 15-1

Hawthorne Race Course races five days a week, Thursday through Monday through April 29, except Easter Sunday and Monday, April 9. 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




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