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Illinois Derby: Field swells to 12 when race is drawn
By Marcus Hersh
Watch Me Go winning the Tampa Bay Derby. Video of Saturday's Illinois Derby will be shown live on DRF.com
STICKNEY, Ill. – Those four horses as of last weekend considered probable entrants in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse? They multiplied. When Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 race was drawn Wednesday, 12 names were called.
Not that the average weekend warrior will be too familiar with many of them. Watch Me Go almost certainly qualifies as the race favorite by virtue of his upset win in the Tampa Bay Derby, but the other 11 horses in the 1 1/8-mile dirt race have combined to make 54 starts, none producing so much as a single stakes victory. Zoebear, Roman Flame, Southern Sculptor, and Future Empire all are maidens. All of them also drew outside posts, between eight and 12. The only non-maiden who breaks from an outside gate is El Grayling (post 10), who in his most recent race was eased in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
ILLINOIS DERBY: Watch Saturday's race live on DRF.com
Watch Me Go, Luis Garcia named to ride for trainer Kathleen O’Connell, seems well positioned in post 4. On the rail is Lagoon of Diamonds, who led throughout a 4 1/2-furlong dash March 4 at Mountaineer Park, and could find himself at the head of a fast pace Saturday. Another likely pace player is New York shipper The Fed Eased, who dueled and faded to fifth last out in the Gotham Stakes.
The Fed Eased, Todd Pletcher-trained Joe Vann, and Sour should be second, third, and fourth betting choices in some combination behind Watch Me Go. Sour, scheduled to ship from Keeneland on Friday for trainer Al Stall, did little wrong in three Fair Grounds races this past winter, finishing second to the talented colt Machen while sprinting in his debut, winning a two-turn maiden race in his second start, and finishing second to stablemate Left in a route allowance on Feb. 26. Left returned to finish seventh in the Louisiana Derby, but that’s no indictment of Sour, the way Stall sees things. Left exited the Louisiana Derby with an ankle issue, an injury that will require 60 days of rest and surely affected his performance.
“That’s why I’m still upbeat on Sour, because [Left] had a very legitimate excuse,” said Stall.
Sour, a Lemon Drop Kid gelding bred and owned by Adele Dilschneider, has worked three times for the Illinois Derby, most recently breezing at Keeneland, where he’s been stabled the last two weeks.
“He’s had three good breezes,” Stall said. “With a sprint, two routes, he should be in good shape. He’s not going to get tired.”
In a race with several speed elements and horses of questionable quality, that alone should make Sour a factor.
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