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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (3/26/08)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542

Final Nominations for the 51st Illinois Derby

Stickney, IL – Entries for the 51st Illinois Derby won’t be drawn until Monday, March 31, but from the looks of the nominations, the Grade II, $500,000 race for three year olds is shaping into a deep and competitive field with many of the nation’s top trainers and horses participating.

When late nominations closed on March 24, there were 15 new names attached to the already impressive list of 82 horses that comprised the Early Bird nominations. All late nominations came attached with a $500 fee, many of whom will likely enter when the Illinois Derby gates spring open on Saturday, April 5.

“We just like to keep the Illinois Derby in the national spotlight,” said Stakes Coordinator Debbie Lindsay. “It’s a great race at a good time of the year, because it’s four weeks until the Kentucky Derby. That makes it a graded prep race for decent money and I think most of the horsemen recognize that.”

Certainly a horseman like Eclipse award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has the Illinois Derby on his national radar. Pletcher won this race last year with Cowtown Cat and this year it is likely that Atoned will represent the powerful Pletcher stable. Pletcher has also nominated three other colts, and it is possible that recent allowance winner, Spurrier, will be entered as well.

As for Atoned, this son of Repent comes off two narrow losses in both the Grade II Remsen, where he was beaten a neck by Court’s Vision, (another Illinois Derby nominee) and in the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby, when Big Truck (yes, another nominee) also necked out Atoned in a thrilling stretch duel.

Bill Mott has also nominated several of his best three year olds, but will likely enter Z Humor in the Derby. Winless so far this year, Z Humor captured the $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot in December (dead-heated with Turf War), and comes off a fourth place finish in the Fountain of Youth.

Perhaps the Derby’s most intriguing nomination and likely participant is the David Carroll trained Denis of Cork. This son of Harlan’s Holiday is undefeated in three lifetime starts including a convincing win in the Grade III Southwest Derby in his most recent start. Carroll also trains fellow nominee Blackberry Road, although that horse is likely to make his next start in the Arkansas Derby.

Visionaire is also an Illinois Derby nominee and at this time his trainer Michael Matz is deciding between the Illinois Derby or the Blue Grass for his star’s next start. Visionaire comes off a last-to-first victory in the Gotham Stakes and his appearance in Chicago would certainly add to the quality of the contest.

The list runs deep, but a few of the other prospective starters include: Golden Spikes, a well-bred horse from the barn of Marty Wolfson; Jazz in the Park, an up-and-coming sort from Bobby Barnett’s stable; Kentucky Bear, a disappointing 7th in the aforementioned Fountain of Youth; and Instill, an Illinois-bred who will look to rebound following two disappointing efforts in his most recent starts.

Nationally renowned trainers such as Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Richard Mandella, Barclay Tagg, Kiaran McLaughlin, Doug O’Neil and Dale Romans all have many of their top colts nominated for the 51st running of the Illinois Derby. Many decisions will have to be made in the next few days, but for now, the race is lining up to be one of the best races of the year.

Hawthorne Race Course’s Spring Thoroughbred meet began Friday, March 7 and will continue through Monday, April 28. Live racing will be conducted Thursday through Monday, regular first post 1:35 pm central time. Hawthorne Race Course is located at 3501 Laramie Avenue, Cicero, IL 60804, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at


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