05/21/2008 12:00AM

Ohio Derby attracts 30 nominees

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Smooth Air, winning the Hutcheson at Gulfstream in January, is being pointed to the May 31 Ohio Derby.P

Thirty horses have been nominated to the Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby on May 31 at Thistledown, according to Matt Hook, the track's stakes coordinator.

Leading the list of 3-year-olds for the 1 1/8-mile stakes is Smooth Air, whose trainer, Bennie Stutts Jr., committed to the Ohio Derby last week. The Florida-based Smooth Air won the Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park and most recently finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby.

Among those nominated are the graded-stakes winners Behindatthebar, Hey Byrn, and ZoFortune. Behindatthebar won the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland but had to withdraw from last weekend's Preakness because of a bruised foot. Hey Byrn won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream and finished seventh in the Preakness. ZoFortune won the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds and finished second in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

Tale of Ekati, winner of the Gradeo1 Wood Memorial and the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, also has been nominated but is being pointed to the Belmont Stakes.

"The list of nominees is strong," said Bill Couch, the track's director of racing and racing secretary. "There are plenty of graded-stakes winners and graded-stakes-placed horses. This is probably one of the best lists by quality that we've ever had."