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Feature Race Analysis


  Illinois Derby – Grade 3
  Race 8 at Hawthorne Race Course
  Saturday, April 20 – Post Time 6:15 PM E.T.
  One and One Eighth Miles, For Three Year Olds
  Purse: $750,000


14 Horses Square Off In Illinois Derby Puzzle
By Ellis Starr - National Racing Analyst for Equibase

     The 56th running of the Grade 3, $750,000 Illinois Derby features a field of 14 and although not a Kentucky Derby prep race (because it is not part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system) it could have significant impact on the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, which will be run on May 18. Of the 14, only two have won stakes races to date. One of those two is Departing, who won the Texas Heritage Stakes in March before a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. The other is Riley Allison Futurity winner Show Some Magic, who finished second in the Grade 2 Sunland Derby in his most recent race. Other horses with good efforts in graded stakes include fourth-place Grade 3 Spiral Stakes finisher Taken by the Storm and Grade 3 Sunland Derby third-place finisher Abraham. Siete de Oros finished second in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes in January but has finished third and fourth in two graded stakes tries since. Another hoping to improve is Narvaez, who enters the Illinois Derby off a fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Dewey Square showed promise when third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall but has finished seventh and fifth in graded stakes since. Recent allowance level winners Bells Big Bernie and Fordubai hope to step up their game to this level as does fifth-place Louisiana Derby finisher Ground Transport. Another horse with positive experience in a stakes is For Greater Glory, who closed fast for third in the non-graded John Battaglia Memorial Stakes before a sixth-place finish in the Spiral Stakes. Street Spice, Dakota Mac and Stormin Monarcho round out the field.


     Contenders:Ground Transport has improved his Equibase Speed Figure in every race since his career debut in January. Most notably, since trying two-turns for the first time on January 19 and winning with a 90 figure, Ground Transport then won again with a 92 figure then earned a 104 when fifth of 14 in the Louisiana Derby. In the Louisiana Derby Ground Transport drew the most disadvantageous 13 post and was four wide on the first turn then five wide with a quarter mile to run. In spite of that he rallied to get to within a length at the top of the stretch before weakening to fifth and five lengths behind winner Revolutionary. Ground Transport’s 104 last race figure is the best in the field except for Siete de Oros and Departing, but they will break from outside posts in the race (12 and 13 respectively). With a much better post position for this race, Ground Transport has potential to run well enough to win the Illinois Derby.


     Show Some Magic finished five lengths behind winner Govenor Charlie in the Sunland Derby in his most recent race but he was more than three lengths clear of the next horse, Abraham, in a career best effort that earned a 95 Equibase Speed Figure. With a runner-up effort in the Mine That Bird Derby prior to that and a win in the Riley Allison Futurity two races before that, Show Some Magic has shown a competitive spirit that gives him a shot in this field, not to mention he is one of just a few horses to have run well at the mile and one-eighth distance of this race.


     Fordubai won the first time he tried two turns last November in the second start of his career and first on turf. He ran better still when trying the main track at Hawthorne in December in a route (mile or more) then after nearly three months off returned to a one-turn race in March and earned a career best 92 figure. Likely to improve by leaps and bounds second off the layoff and stretching out to two-turns as he did for that second career effort in November, Fordubai could run well enough to post the upset in the race and should be considered a long shot contender.


     Both Departing and Siete de Oros have earned figures recently that would make them competitive with the best in this field if repeated, Departing a 106 figure when third in the Louisiana Derby and Siete de Oros 104 when fourth in the Gotham Stakes. However with those outside posts (13 for Departing and 12 for Siete de Oros) their chances to repeat or better those efforts could be compromised.


     The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Abraham (101), Bells Big Bernie (88), Dewey Square (94), Dakota Mac (79), For Greater Glory (94), Narvaez (88), Stormin Monarcho (86), Street Spice (87) and Taken by the Storm (96).

My Selections:
  •    Ground Transport
  •    Show Some Magic
  •    Fordubai

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