09/29/2009 11:00PM

Best of Ohio on derby undercard


The most attractive racing program of the Ohio season will be held at Thistledown on Saturday as the Grade 2 Ohio Derby will share a card with the five-race Best of Ohio series for statebreds, which traditionally determines Ohio-bred divisional champions.

Gone Astray, who dominated the Pennsylvania Derby field with a 9 1/4-length win in his last start, has been installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the 13-horse Ohio Derby.

The Best of Ohio series features the $100,000 Endurance at 1 1/4 miles, the $100,000 Distaff at 1 1/8 miles, the $75,000 Sprint, and a pair of $75,000 stakes for 2-year-olds: the Juvenile for males and the John W. Galbreath Memorial for fillies.

Three defending Best of Ohio champions - Catlaunch, Pay the Man, and I Can't Refuse - are among the 49 horses entered in the Best of Ohio races.

Catlaunch, the Ohio-bred horse of the year in 2008, is the defending champ in the Endurance. He will once again hook up with his archrival Smarmy, who won this race in 2007 and beat Catlaunch by a head in the Governors Buckeye Cup here Sept. 5.

Pay the Man is back to defend her title in the Distaff and will face eight rivals, including two Ohio-bred 2-year-old filly champs, Slides Choice (2008) and Sarasponda (2007).

I Can't Refuse and Ben's Reflection have both won the Sprint twice, but this year they will have to deal with King of the Roxy, a multiple graded stakes winner who won his Ohio racing debut in the Honey Jay Stakes here Aug. 28.

Cleveland Kindergarten winner That's a Heckofacat heads the Juvenile field, while the stakes-placed duo of Country Club Sue and Adreamfordarlene are the favorites for the Galbreath.