07/13/2017 2:36PM

Irap no sure thing in Indiana Derby

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JJ Zamaiko
Irap (left) returns in only three weeks from this hard-earned victory over Girvin in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

Irap was a 31-1 shot when he won the Blue Grass Stakes in April, and even at a little more than 5-2 three weeks ago when he won the Ohio Derby, Irap might have offered a touch of value. But Irap is sneaking up on nobody Saturday night in the Grade 3, $500,000 Indiana Derby, and while he clearly is the most accomplished horse in the race, there are reasons not to trust him as the heavy favorite.

The Indiana Derby is the last of six stakes on a strong 10-race card at Indiana Grand that begins at 6:05 p.m. Eastern. The Derby goes at 9:49 as race 9 and is the cashing leg in an all-stakes pick four that includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Indiana Oaks and two $100,000 dirt-route stakes. Two $100,000 turf stakes earlier on the card both came up strong, and the forecast for Saturday night in Shelbyville looks ideal.

It could be a big night for trainer Doug O’Neill, who in addition to Irap starts Indiana Oaks favorite Mopotism and the morning-line favorite for the Warrior Veterans Stakes, Gangster.

KEY CONTENDERS

Irap, by Tiznow

Last 3 Beyers: 98-47-93

◗ O’Neill is based in California but sent Irap to Prairie Meadows to train for the Indiana Derby after the colt’s win in Ohio. O’Neill’s desire to avoid cross-country travel points out a main concern, the short three-week turnaround from the Ohio Derby. Moreover, Irap had to work to edge Girvin in that race while earning a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

◗ Irap did overcome a traffic-filled trip to win last out, and O’Neill hopes his days of inconsistent performances are over.

“He’s a horse that’s always been physically mature but mentally in and out,” O’Neill said. “He’s had the pedigree and the body. Now, hopefully, the mind is there.”

◗ Irap has won only at 1 1/8 miles and cuts back to 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Moreover, Irap is a bulky horse racing on a tight track with a short homestretch, and he has obstacles to overcome even as the best horse in the race.

Untrapped, by Trappe Shot

Last 3 Beyers: 92-75-86

◗ Came out of a 12th-place Kentucky Derby finish with a cut, owner Michael Langford said, and might not have shown his best when third behind Irap in Ohio.

“I thought he ran solid,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Iowa Derby last week with Hence. “I didn’t think the race unfolded ideally for him, and he still ran on valiantly. I think he’s capable of a better trip than he got on multiple occasions this year, and when it comes together, he’s going to win a good race.”

◗ He can lay closer to the pace than he did in the Ohio Derby, and the cutback to 1 1/16 miles helps Untrapped, who has a quick turn of foot.

Colonelsdarktemper, by Colonel John

Last 3 Beyers: 90-88-79

◗ His only poor race came over a wet track in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill, and Colonelsdarktemper’s two best races were his most recent.

◗ Appeared to lack full focus during the stretch run of many of his earlier starts but bore down last time and was coming back on McCraken after that classy colt passed him in midstretch of the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill.

“He’s been maturing for sure,” said trainer Jinks Fires.

◗ Has speed and could land a perfect pressing trip just outside of Wild Shot, who has looked more comfortable in one-turn races.

Awesome Saturday, by Any Given Saturday

Last 3 Beyers: 86-88-89

◗ Makes his stakes debut after a three-length Churchill route-allowance win, but even there, Awesome Saturday’s lack of maturity showed when he became rank before the half-mile pole.

“The physical talent has always been there,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He has just made some mental mistakes.”