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Sportsman's Park results - Illinois Derby recap

Contact: David Zenner (773) 242-1121 ext. 310

Saturday, April 6, 2002


CICERO, Ill. (April 6, 2002) -- War Emblem took advantage of his quick early speed to cruise to a front-running 6-length victory over heavily favored Repent in the $500,000 Illinois Derby Saturday at Sportsman's Park near Chicago. The Frank Springer-trained son of Our Emblem was ridden by Larry Sterling Jr. and covered the mile and an eighth over a fast track in 1:49.92. For both trainer and jockey, the Illinois Derby was a career biggest win.

War Emblem broke sharply and made the lead right from the gate, taking the field through moderate-to-slow fractions of 23.51, 48.30, 1:13.03 and 1:37.77.

"He made the front real easy," said Sterling. "I just pitched him his head and let him do his own thing. Once his ears came up I said, 'He's home free now.' I heard a little something (coming at me turning for home), but this horse had a lot left and he galloped out good. When he came back, he wasn't even blowing much. He's a free running horse. I just fed him the reins and he relaxed on his own."

The winner earned $300,000 to boost his earnings to $366,000 for Chicago area businessman 84-year-old Russell L. Reineman. In addition, War Emblem is now eligible for a $1 million bonus if he goes on to win any of the Visa Triple Crown races -- the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. Owner and trainer were non-committal when asked if the horse would run back in the Kentucky Derby in four weeks.

"Mr. Reineman and I will have to discuss where we go next," Springer said. "There's really no way I can say what we will, or won't, do at this point. We'll just take it day by day and then make a decision. It's a little more time between races (to run in the Preakness rather than The Derby), but we just don't know right now."

The easy pace did in 1-2 favorite Repent who was still last of the nine 3-year-olds after a half mile, but made a strong move on the second turn to get into contention but he was unable to close on the winner in the stretch.

"I rode him the same way (as in the Louisiana Derby)," said jockey Jerry Bailey, "the pace was just different today. It seemed like he didn't make up any ground from the head of the stretch home. He changed leads well and did everything right. He just got outrun in the stretch."

Trainer Ken McPeek indicated that The Derby was still in the plans for Repent despite the second-place finish.

"More than likely we're still gonna run in the Kentucky Derby," McPeek said. "This colt is just begging for a mile and a quarter. As always, we'll check him out to make sure he's a hundred percent. We may be better off going into (the Kentucky Derby) losing today rather than winning."

Fonz's was third in the nine-horse field, followed by Robin Zee, Peekskill, Publication, Changeintheweather, Boston Common and Secret Command.

Sent off as the third choice in the wagering, War Emblem paid $14.60, $4.40 and $2.10. Repent returned $2.20 and $2.10. Fonz's paid $2.10.




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