Updated on 09/17/2011 10:44PM

Alexanders are the home team

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Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Quentin and Elisabeth Alexander flank their daughter, Emily Votruba.

NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - For the first time in many years, a locally owned horse, Magna Graduate, has been made the morning-line favorite for Ohio's premier race, Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Ohio Derby.

In his last three races, Magna Graduate has been competitive in graded stakes in Kentucky, Illinois, and Texas, and comes into the Ohio Derby with three wins from 10 starts and earnings of just under $250,000. He was purchased privately last fall by Elisabeth Alexander, one of Ohio's top owners and breeders.

Alexander, 77, owns Eutrophia Farms in nearby Chesterland, Ohio, with her husband, Quentin Alexander, and is president of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners. She has been involved in Ohio breeding since 1970 and has campaigned four Ohio champions - Floater, 2003 champion 2-year-old colt; Crack the Code, 1997 3-year-old filly; Lived It Up, 1997 handicap horse; and St. Elmo's Light, 1996 3-year-old colt.

In addition to being prominent in the Ohio racing industry, Elisabeth Alexander has deep roots in the Cleveland community. She is a trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art and is the director of the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation. She is also an honorary trustee of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, a divison of University Hospitals in Cleveland.

Several years ago, the Alexanders decided they wanted to expand their racing and breeding operation and compete at the national level.

"We've been very successful in Ohio and that encourages us to think that we can take it to the next level," Alexander said.

Today Eutrophia Farms is a state-of-the-art facility that sits on 140 acres and boasts indoor and outdoor walking rings, a starting gate, a broodmare barn which currently houses 23 mares, a stallion barn, yearling barn, breaking facilities, and its newest addition, a half-mile training track. The Alexanders also have another 38 acres in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where Quentin was mayor for eight years in the 1970's.

Last fall Kim Valerio, a bloodstock agent who had advised the Alexanders when she worked at Lane's End Farm, called Mrs. Alexander and informed her that she had spotted a derby-caliber colt. Alexander flew to Churchill Downs with her daughter, Emily Votruba, the general manager of Eutrophia Farms, to take a look at Magna Graduate. Alexander liked what she saw and made a deal to buy Magna Graduate, a son of Honor Grades.

"We liked his conformation, his attitude, and how he moved," Alexander said.

Magna Graduate won an October allowance race at Keeneland at first asking for his new connections. He followed up with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

Magna Graduate began his 3-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January and then returned to Kentucky, where he posted his biggest career win, in the $100,000 Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in March. He has since finished fourth in the Lane's End at Turfway, third in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and fourth in the Lone Star Derby. Previously trained by Patrick Byrne, Magna Graduate is now based at Belmont Park and will make his first start for Todd Pletcher in the Ohio Derby.

"His last work was with Pollard's Vision at six furlongs, and everyone was very pleased," Alexander said.

Gary Stevens rode Magna Graduate for the first time in the Lone Star Derby and will have the mount again on Saturday. Magna Graduate, who was beaten three lengths at Lone Star, came from farther off the pace than usual in that race. Similar tactics may be used in the Ohio Derby.

"Gary thinks he may be more effective that way," Alexander said.

The home team is certainly keeping good company these days.