07/25/2013 2:31PM

Ohio Derby: Catalano ships in Title Contender from Kentucky

Barbara D. Livingston
Title Contender must avoid getting caught up in a speed duel in the Ohio Derby.

Title Contender will be searching for his first win of the year Saturday in Thistledown’s premier race, the Grade 3, $100,000 Ohio Derby. The 1 1/16-mile Ohio Derby drew a field of eight. None of the entrants has won more than two races.

Title Contender, owned by Gary and Mary West, made four starts in California for trainer Bob Baffert last year, winning a mile maiden race in his second try and then finishing unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita and the CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park. He began his 3-year-old season by finishing second for Baffert in an optional claimer at Oaklawn Park in February and then was transferred to trainer Wayne Catalano.

Title Contender, a gelded son of Pulpit, finished seventh in the Rebel Stakes in his debut for Catalano on March 16 and was then given a brief freshening.

He finished sixth of 11 in his May 19 return while facing older horses in a Churchill Downs allowance race. Most recently, Title Contender set the pace before fading to third in an optional claimer on June 28 at Chruchill.

Catalano is confident his charge is ready for the Ohio Derby.

“He is doing great or he wouldn’t be on his way up there Friday,” Catalano said.

Title Contender is stabled at Churchill Downs, where he posted a bullet five-furlong work July 10 and worked a half-mile July 19.

There is an abundance of early speed in the field of seven, a fact not lost on Catalano.

“We will just have to make adjustments as we go,” Catalano said. “He doesn’t have to be in front. I think this looks like a great spot for us.”

Hector Rosario Jr. will ride Title Contender for the first time.

Silver Tongued is a perfect 2 for 2 locally. An Ohio-bred, he won the Best of Ohio Juvenile last October and was named champion Ohio 2-year-old colt. Most recently, he won the $75,000 Cleveland Gold Cup on July 7. Trained by Jeff Greenhill, Silver Tongued has a deep closing style that should suit him well Saturday.

Lori Wydick retains the mount.

Braveman will be looking for his third win of the year for trainer Tim Hamm while racing for a new owner. Braveman has made all of his starts at Presque Isle Downs. He won his maiden May 13 and then an entry-level allowance race May 29. In his last start, he finished second in a second-level allowance race July 14.

Braveman was previously owned by Hamm’s Blazing Meadow Farm but was sold July 15 at the Fasig-Tipton horses of racing age sale for $180,000 to the DD Farms of David Downard. Downard recently called Hamm to see if he would continue to train Braveman.

“We are very happy to have him back to train,” Hamm said. “I think this is a great spot for him.”

Whether or not Hamm wins the Ohio Derby, his chances of winning a stakes at Thistledown on Saturday are pretty good. In the $50,000 Miss Ohio for 2-year-old Ohio-bred fillies, Hamm trains five of the six entrants.

“I hate to give you a Belichick answer, but I have a five-sixths chance of winning,” Hamm joked when asked about his chances in the Miss Ohio.

Needmore Flattery is a perfect 2 for 2 for Hamm and has yet to face horses of her own sex. Needmore Flattery won her maiden race at Thistledown on July 6. In her most recent outing, she won the $50,000 Hoover at the River Downs at Beulah Park meet July 14 by 3 1/2 lengths.

Irwin Rosendo retains the mount.