Updated on 04/10/2012 3:30PM

Illinois Derby: Done Talking finishes fastest to take Illinois Derby


STICKNEY, Ill. – Done Talking rebounded from a dull performance in the March 3 Gotham Stakes and captured the Illinois Derby by three-quarters of a length over Morgan’s Guerrilla early Saturday evening at Hawthorne Race Course.

Twelfth of 14 in the early going, Done Talking got a clean trip under Sheldon Russell, rallying steadily while about two paths off the rail around the far turn, coming between horses inside the eighth pole, and wearing down Morgan’s Guerrilla before galloping out well in front. The victory gave 67-year-old Maryland-based trainer Hamilton Smith the biggest purse of his  training career, while the $300,000 winner’s share of the Grade 3, $500,000 race might well give Done Talking a spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

“You don’t get a lot of chances to go to the Kentucky Derby,” Smith said.

Done Talking, owned by the Skeedattle Stable, had a productive 2-year-old season, improving as distances lengthened and finishing a close, closing fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen on Nov. 26.

“He was the only one closing there,” said Smith. “We thought he might have won if he hadn’t had some trouble.”

But Done Talking started his 3-year-old season with a dud, racing near the back of the pack and never quickening while finishing 10th of 13 in the Gotham. Smith said Done Talking acted dull in the paddock that day, but no particular excuse could be found for his failure, and Smith decided to pretend the Gotham hadn’t happened.

“We decided to just draw a line through that one,” said Smith.

Done Talking broke decently and was quickly guided from post 13 toward the inside by Russell, racing in front of just two horses into the first turn. That kept him out of a jam-up as the horses began to bend; Currency Swap, the 5-2 favorite, had to check when put in tight quarters.

“I think that shook him up,” said jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.

Morgan’s Guerrilla, the close third choice after opening as the race favorite, managed to avoid the early scrum, but a flat-footed break put Morgan’s Guerrilla farther off the pace than expected.

“I didn’t get the trip I thought I’d get,” said jockey Rosie Napravnik.

Frankie is Rock was the first-call leader, but Our Entourage, the second choice, teamed up with him down the backstretch through fractions of 23.94 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 48.64 for the opening half. Morgan’s Guerrilla joined the lead group into the far turn as Slamit faded, taking over from Our Entourage after turning into the stretch. Morgan’s Guerrilla raced “ a little green” through the stretch, Napravnik said, and as Morgan’s Guerrilla switched leads at an inopportune moment, Done Talking was finding his best stride.

“He’s very one-paced,” said Russell, who did a good job saving ground on the outside-drawn winner. “You’ve got to ride him to really get anywhere. But he’s perfect for these one and one-eighth mile dirt races on these deep tracks.”

Done Talking paid $27.20 to win, and was timed in 1:53.88 over a fast track. The Hawthorne surface wasn’t producing quick clocking Saturday, but this was the slowest Illinois Derby in at least 44 years. Hakama, last in the early going, finished third, and was followed by Saturday Launch and Our Entourage. Currency Swap wound up 12th.