Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Illinois Derby; Zenyatta’s Sister Returns

In this weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week, we will be taking a closer look at the 2014 Illinois Derby for three year olds going nine furlongs for $500,000. The Bob Baffert trained Midnight Hawk has been installed as the heavy 4-5 morning line favorite.

Several other major races to keep an eye on this weekend include the $1,500,000 Charles Town Classic at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. Game On Dude, who is coming off a titanic win in the Santa Anita Handicap (where he defeated top older horses Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man and recorded an astronomical 117 speed figure), will be gunning for a repeat as the speedy gelding shipped in from California and won this race last year

The now seven year old will face six others in the race and fired a 1:11 six furlongs drill last Sunday for this, prompting Baffert to say “He’s doing really well, he worked great the other day, and he’s happy.”

Game On Dude looks to lay over this field and should make every pole a winning one even with the speedy Moreno entered.

“He had 13 races last year, and now he’s a fresh horse,” trainer Eric Guillot said of Moreno. “My main concern is he’s a ‘looky-lou’ —meaning he looks around during the race—so he’s got earplugs and blinkers. Game on Dude? He’s the horse to beat. No question.”

Clubhouse Ride, who Game On Dude has beaten thrice, will also be taking yet another shot. “He’s coming up to this as well as I could hope,” says trainer Craig Lewis. “He’s feeling good, acting good.”

The well bred Long River (A.P. Indy, out of 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Round Pound), enters this race off a second-place finish to Romansh in the Excelsior Stakes March 22 at Aqueduct  for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

“Maybe we can sit third, fourth or fifth and make a run,” McLaughlin said. “Game on Dude is obviously the horse to beat and a nice horse. He’s coming off a big effort in California but has to fly (to West Virginia). We’re coming off a big effort at Aqueduct. There are a million and five reasons to come. He deserves a chance, and it’s a grade II, and we’re trying to win a graded stakes with our horse. There’s no reason not to run.”

Over at Keeneland is the Coolmore-Lexington Stakes at 8 ½ furlongs for $200,000 for three year olds. A full field of 11 has been entered and some of the standouts I saw include Solitary Ranger, who albeit didn’t bother showing up in the Spiral Stakes in his last race (March 22), but did win three of four before that, Poker Player, who also stubbed his toe in the Spiral Stakes, but packs a big closing kick and also ran well in three of his last four races, Devine Oath is unbeaten in 2 starts, so we don’t know exactly how good he is at this point and Supermonic, who was his last two on the engine, by wide margins and shows skyrocketing speed figures.

Lastly, keep an eye on the Frederico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday. It’s a $100,000, 8 ½ furlong race for three year olds and habitually there are always horses who use that race as a stepping stone to the Preakness Stakes.

In that race, Oliver Zip appears to be the one to beat based off his stellar record (6-3-3-0) and the fact he won a $100,000 stakes race at Aqueduct before being beaten a whisker in the Bay Shore Stakes in his last race (April 5). Other contenders include Joint Custody who shows eight career starts and was either first or second in seven of them including a couple of stakes wins and Kid Cruz who was sensational in winning the Private Terms Stakes his last time out.

April 19, 2014

Hawthorne Racetrack

Race: 9

Illinois Derby (Grade: 3)

Purse: $500,000

1 1/8th miles

For three year olds










1 1 Dynamic Impact 3/C L M Mena 122 M E Casse


2 2 A Step Ahead 3/C L C A Emigh 122 C M Block


3 3 Midnight Hawk 3/C L M Garcia 122 B Baffert


4 4 Irish You Well 3/C L C Hill 122 W M Catalano


5 5 King Cyrus 3/C L R Napravnik 122 T A Pletcher


6 6 Emmett Park 3/G L L A Wydick 122 R J Pincins


7 7 Global Strike 3/C L T Thornton 122 T A Pletcher


8 8 Class Leader 3/C L J Graham 122 N J Howard




1) Midnight Hawk clearly towers over this field; I mean. on paper, this is one of the biggest mismatches races I’ve seen in quite some time.

This colt by Midnight Lute won his debut maiden race by a wide margin and was then ran right back in the (Grade:3) Sham Stakes where he won again by 1 ¼ lengths less than a month later.

Although he hasn’t been back to the winner’s circle since then, his next three races including a close up third to the talented Candy Boy in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, a distant second to superstar California Chrome and a solid second in the Sunland Park Derby to Chitu on March 23.

Simply put, he meets no such rival in this race, add on to the fact he’s recorded two strong works between this and his last race (April 3- 4F-:46 flat and April 13- 6F- 1:13.3) and his speed figures are superior, and more consistent, against Saturdays rivals and you should come up with a logical choice…..down the road for him on Saturday.


2) King Cyrus– is a Bellamy Road colt from the powerhouse Todd Pletcher barn that ran very well in three of his first four starts (one bad race over a muddy track).

However, he never ran a step in his last (Louisiana Derby, March 29).

Pletcher adds blinkers for Saturday’s race, shows a good half mile work and this is his third race off a layoff (cycle) race…bounce back candidate?


3) Class Leader– is a half brother to multiple grade I winner Student Council by Smart Strike who ran abysmally in his debut last October but has evidently improved over the winter as he is now 2 for 2 in 2014.

He comes out of a very capable Neil Howard barn with speed figures that have improved leaps and bounds recently. That being said, this is a major league step up in class but looks best of the (weak) rest


2014 Record: 7-22 = 32%


Little Bets N’ Pieces


**** Two-time champion filly Beholder makes her first start of 2014 in Sunday’s $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita Park, it’ll be her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita last November.

Trained by Richard Mandella, the fleet filly by Henny Hughes will use this race as a stepping stone for the $1 million Ogden Phipps at 1 1/16 miles June 7 at Belmont Park.

“We were looking for a race to get her started and we felt this would be a good prep for the million dollar race on Belmont Day,” said Mandella. “Adding it up, we just didn’t want to ship out of town for her first race back. I don’t feel she’s wound up as tight as she might be, but it should be good enough for now.”

Beholder has recorded eight works on her Santa Anita tab dating back to Feb. 26, including consecutive seven-furlong moves. The most recent (April 12) was recorded in 1:27 3/5.

Beholder will interestingly face six rivals including Eblouissante, half sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.

Eblouissante has not run since finishing second as the 3-5 favorite in an allowance going 1 1/16 miles on Feb 23 at Santa Anita


**** Grade:1 winner and the stakes producing mare My Flag died at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., after foaling a healthy bay colt by Bernardini last Sunday.

The mare, who was regally bred herself being by Easy Goer out of the great Personal Ensign, was 21.

My Flag won six races and placed seven times in 20 starts, earning more than $1.5 million. Among her victories were the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashland Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Gazelle Handicap, and Bonnie Miss Stakes.

As a broodmare, My Flag produced champion 2-year-old filly Storm Flag Flying (by Storm Cat).

“My Flag was a pleasure to be around,” said Bradley Purcell of Claiborne. “She was a Breeders’ Cup champion and champion broodmare…it’s not very often you have that combination together. We were very fortunate to take care of My Flag and she will be missed”.

“She’s got a nice yearling (Sound the Trumpets, by Bernardini) and had a nice baby, so she has a couple more chances to carry on the tradition for her.”