07/05/2017 3:16PM

Hence a question mark in Iowa Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hence will begin his post-Triple Crown campaign in Friday's Iowa Derby.

Hence had buzz coming into the Kentucky Derby, but unfortunately for his connections and backers, he had neither much luck nor much run over a sloppy Churchill Downs racing strip on May 6.

Hence finished 11th in the Derby, and though he was ninth in the Preakness Stakes, that performance was worse than his Derby, and in a way, the jury still is out on Hence when he begins his post-Triple Crown campaign Friday night at Prairie Meadows in the Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby.

“I think he’ll run really well,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He just needs to get back on track.”

Hence has a new rider, Mike Smith, and post 6 in a field of nine set to race 1 1/16 miles. If he goes off anywhere near his morning-line odds of 5-1, it will mean Hence is dead on the board. The Iowa Derby is race nine of 10 on the card. Post time for the feature is 9:50 Central, and the race immediately follows the $100,000 Iowa Distaff.

:: Get bonus PPs for Friday’s late pick four at Prairie Meadows with the purchase of any Friday PPs

KEY CONTENDERS

McCormick, by Hard Spun

Last 3 Beyers: 89-72-80

◗ Trainer Ian Wilkes and owner Whitham Thoroughbreds already have a top 3-year-old in McCraken, but McCormick appears to be a horse on the rise who still might have a pretty high ceiling.

◗ After a dirt debut, McCormick twice ran on turf, but he was a fourth-start maiden winner at Churchill when a grass race was rained onto the main track. “It’s funny how things work out,” Wilkes said. “After that, he worked so good on dirt, I tried him on it again.”

◗ McCormick’s second Churchill dirt start this year was even better than his first. Cutting back from a true route to a one-turn mile, McCormick and Julien Leparoux – who rides Friday – showed surprising pace and good late energy to win a first-level allowance going away by more than two lengths, then galloping out far in front. “The thing that impressed me the most was the way he got away from them in the stretch,” said Wilkes.

Petrov, by Flatter

Last 3 Beyers: 89-79-88

◗ Still just a one-time winner, but he was among the top 3-year-olds at Oaklawn this winter and spring, running strong races in the Smarty Jones, the Southwest, and the Rebel before regressing to finish ninth in the Arkansas Derby. “I said all along if he didn’t drag us to the Kentucky Derby, we’d go for something else,” said trainer Ron Moquett.

◗ Instead of the Derby, Petrov got a break, returning to action June 10 in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont, where he was a solid fourth behind sharp winner American Anthem. “I thought he ran well. It was a sneaky-good race. He kind of got shuffled back and then made a good run,” Moquett said.

◗ The stretch back out to two turns could be a plus for Petrov, who has the rail and jockey Rafael Santana. “He’s versatile, but I think he likes a route of ground,” said Moquett.

Hence, by Street Boss

Last 3 Beyers: 81-77-97

◗ Hence looked like a decent colt last fall, and he overcame serious trouble of his own doing to win a maiden race early this year at Oaklawn, but the outlier in his eight-race career is the best race he’s ever run, a going-away win in the Sunland Park Derby.

Impressive Edge, by Harlan’s Holiday

Last 3 Beyers: 88-87-75

◗ Ran into sharp winners in his last two starts: Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby and Timeline in the Peter Pan.

◗ Has turned in six workouts since the May 13 Peter Pan.

◗ No doubt trainer Dale Romans is highly capable, but DRF Formulator shows that Romans over the last three years in graded dirt stakes for 3-year-olds has gone 39-3-2-5.