09/28/2009 11:00PM

Ohio Derby field still in flux

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Barbara Weidl/EQUI-PHOTO
Pennsylvania Derby winner Gone Astray, may race in either the Indiana or Ohio Derby.

A surprisingly large field of 13 3-year-olds was entered Tuesday for this weekend's Grade 2, $150,000 Ohio Derby, although the trainers of some horses have said they intend to cross-enter in the Indiana Derby, which offers a far bigger purse on the same day.

The Ohio Derby will be run at Thistledown near Cleveland late Saturday afternoon at just about the same time the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby will be run at Hoosier Park near Indianapolis. However, an ongoing quarantine situation with the equine disease strangles has led some trainers to approach the Hoosier race with caution. Horses are free to come and go at Hoosier, but at least one state, Kentucky, has placed temporary restrictions on the return of horses that race there.

"Entries for the Ohio Derby came from everywhere," said Bill Couch, racing secretary at Thistledown. "I really didn't know what to expect, but then boom, they all came in. I'm assuming it has something to do with the strangles situation at Hoosier, and I know for sure that a handful of these horses will be cross-entered."

Entries for the Indiana Derby will be taken Wednesday. Both races are run over dirt, with the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby being a sixteenth-mile longer than its counterpart.

The leading name for both races is Gone Astray, who as the 9 1/4-length winner of the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 7, is the lone graded stakes winner in the Ohio Derby field. Gone Astray is based in New York with trainer Shug McGaughey.

Other notable names for the Ohio Derby are Join in the Dance, Karama, Giant Oak, and Gallant.

The Ohio Derby was announced as being canceled for this year when Thistledown released its 2009 stakes scheduled in late March because of the dire financial problems being experienced by the track and its longtime owner, Magna Entertainment Corp. But in August, the Ohio Racing Commission ordered the race reinstated, and Thistledown complied while cutting the purse in half from the usual $300,000 to $150,000, the minimum for a race to retain its Grade 2 ranking.

Post time for the Ohio Derby, the eighth of nine Saturday races, is 5 p.m. Eastern.

The Ohio Derby culminates a Best of Ohio program that marks the richest day of racing each year in the state. Five other stakes, each worth $75,000 or $100,000, are carded as races 3 through 7.