ILLINOIS DERBY NOTES
|Hawthorne Racecourse (4/1/04)
Contact: Jim Miller
Wide Open Field for Grade 2 Illinois Derby
STICKNEY, IL -- This morning the field was drawn for Saturday's running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. 11 runners were entered for the 1 1/8 miles race as the race looks to be a wide-open affair.
In the past two years, the Illinois Derby has burst onto the scene as one of the top prep races in the country for the Kentucky Derby. Placed four weeks out from the Kentucky Derby, the Illinois Derby has allowed for top three-year-olds to have time to recover off their run in this race before heading to Kentucky.
In 2002, the Illinois Derby looked to be the final steeping stone for top three-year-old Repent going into the race. In that race, an unknown by the name of War Emblem, with jockey Larry Sterling Jr., jumped up and stole the show as he won in front running style and was on his way to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May. Overlooked in the Derby, War Emblem was a longshot once again, but he surprised everyone and grabbed the glory with his Derby win. He came back two weeks later to win the Preakness and he got it all started in the Illinois Derby.
Last year, California invader Ten Most Wanted came to Hawthorne and the lightly raced Wally Dollase trainee exploded in the stretch to win the Illinois Derby going away. Going off as one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby, Ten Most Wanted ran mid-pack in the Run for the Roses, but he would later go on to a second place finish in the Belmont and wins in both the Travers and Super Derby.
This year many runners are looking to make a name for themselves as the Illinois Derby could once again lead to stardom for the winner in the Triple Crown.
The lukewarm morning line choice at 4-1 in the Illinois Derby is Pollard's Vision. Owned by Edgewood Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Pollard's Vision is a winner of two of nine starts but has hit the board seven times. In his last start, Pollard's Vision finished third to Wimbledon in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby after holding the lead late in the stretch. Eibar Coa will be aboard Pollard's Vision for the first time on Saturday.
Song Of The Sword makes his stakes debut as this highly regarded runner looks to continue his perfect streak. A winner in all three of his races, Song of the Sword defeated Lane's End winner Sinister G by a nose in an allowance test at Aqueduct on March 5. Owned by Ernie Paragallo and trained by Jennifer Pedersen, Song of the Sword is second choice in the morning line at 9-2 and will be ridden once again by Richard Migliore.
Merv Griffin's Skipaslew is another one to be reckoned with in the Illinois Derby as he makes his third consecutive graded stakes start. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Skipaslew has won four times from nine starts. He won the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby on January 10 before finishing seventh at 2-1 in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby in his last, as he was beaten by only 3¼ lengths in that race. Eric Saint-Martin will be aboard today as Skipaslew is 5-1 in the morning line.
Laura & Eugene Melnyk's Farnum Alley makes his second straight graded stakes start for trainer Anthony Reinstedler. Overlooked in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in his last, Farnum Alley closed from near the back of the pack to finish fifth in the $1 million event, beaten by only four lengths in that start. Farnum Alley is 6-1 in the morning line and gets top local rider Eusebio Razo Jr. in the saddle.
Suave makes his stakes debut in the Illinois Derby but appears primed for a top performance in this race. Owned by Jay Emm Ess Stable and trained by Paul McGee, Suave comes off a strong allowance victory at Gulfstream in his last as top young rider Rafael Bejarano takes the ride in the Illinois Derby. Suave is also 6-1 in the morning line.
White Mountain Boy may be one of the sleepers in the Illinois Derby as he looks to be a speed threat on Saturday. Owned by Michael Gill and trained by Phil Schoenthal, White Mountain Boy posted four consecutive victories before running third most recently in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway in his last. Regular rider Abel Castellano Jr. will be in town to ride as White Mountain Boy is 8-1 in the morning line.
O.K. Mikie is another California runner that makes the trip East as he makes his fifth consecutive stakes start. Claimed for $25,000 last November, O.K. Mikie finished second to Skipaslew in the Golden Gate Derby and was beaten only a half-length in the El Camino Real Derby. Owned by Charles Lo and trained by Jerry McArthur, O.K. Mikie is 10-1 in the morning line and will be ridden by Kevin Radke.
Kilgowan will be looking for lightning to strike once again as he looks for back-to-back graded stakes victories. Sent off at 26-1 in the El Camino Real Derby Kilgowan sat at the back of the pack early before uncorking a huge late rush to win by a half length. Owned by Ann Marie Farm and trained by Lonnie Arterburn, Kilgowan will be ridden once again by jockey Chance Rollins. Kilgowan is 12-1 in the morning line.
Pure American is looking to follow the route of Ten Most Wanted in one aspect as he makes his start in the Illinois Derby. Much like Ten Most Wanted did last year, Pure American was sent to Hawthorne early to prepare for the Illinois Derby as he has been on the grounds for over three weeks. Owned by Al & Sandee Kirkwood and trained by Grant Forster, Pure American looked to get things together in his last start as he drew away to win an allowance start at Oaklawn by eight lengths. With a pair of works over the track and regular rider Greta Kuntzweiler aboard, Pure American is a sleeper at 12-1 in the morning line.
A pair of local runners will also be in the Illinois Derby as Chrome Soldier and Dancefortyniner will both take their shot at the big bucks.
Robert Anderson's Chrome Soldier won around two-turns over the Hawthorne track against allowance company in his last and may be another to look for the early lead Satruday. Trained by Terrel Gore, he will be ridden by 2002's Illinois Derby winner Larry Sterling Jr.
Irene Allen's Dancefortyniner makes his second stakes start for trainer Eddie Cole as he is also an outside threat in the Illinois Derby. With only a maiden win to his credit, Dancefortyniner finished sixth in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway before recently running second in allowance company in his last. Local rider Carlos Montalvo will be aboard as Dancefortyniner is also 30-1 in the morning line.
Listed Below is the field for the Illinois Derby in Post Position:
PP Horse Jockey M/L
Illinois Derby 2004