07/29/2010 2:29PM

Pleasant Prince using Ohio Derby as stepping-stone to Travers

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Barbara D. Livingston
Pleasant Prince is using the Ohio Derby to jump-start the second half of his 3-year-old season.

Ken Ramsey kept insisting that Pleasant Prince was a Derby horse. Ramsey meant the Kentucky Derby, of course, but the colt he owns with his wife, Sarah, failed to garner sufficient earnings to make the field. Surely none of it mattered, given the poor performance Pleasant Prince gave when 11th of 12 two weeks later in the Preakness.

Duly regrouped by trainer Wesley Ward, Pleasant Prince finally has a derby within reach: the Grade 3, $100,000 Ohio Derby, which will be run Saturday for the 76th time at Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio. Eleven weeks after the Preakness disappointment, Pleasant Prince is the 6-5 morning-line favorite versus nine other 3-year-olds in the Grade 3 race.

Ward sent Pleasant Prince from his Keeneland base to Thistledown early enough for him to have a work over the track, with the colt breezing five furlongs in a quick 58.40 seconds last Saturday.

“It was an outstanding work,” said Ward. “I wanted him to get familiar with the track, and he really relished the surface. We think he should run really big Saturday. If he wins, I’d say we’ll go next in the Travers, which I’m sure is what Mr. Ramsey wants to do.”

Pleasant Prince will be ridden by Alex Solis when breaking from post 7 in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby. His top challenger appears to be Worldly, who ships in from Churchill Downs for the Jay Em Ess Stable and trainer Paul McGee off a terrific runner-up effort in the June 12 Northern Dancer. Luis Gonzalez has the mount from post 9.

Two other colts with last-out wins at Churchill, Mykindacandy and Dixie Band, look like the top threats beyond the two favorites. The rest of the field is comprised of longshots.

The Ohio Derby goes as the 13th of 14 races on a 7 & 7 card with River Downs. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the Ohio Derby set for 5:35.

The first Ohio Derby was run in 1876, one year after the first Kentucky Derby. Long the most prestigious horse race in the state, its most notable champions include Smarten (1979), Skip Trial (1985), Broad Brush (1986), and Skip Away (1996). The 2009 winner was Gone Astray, with Eddie Castro up for trainer Shug McGaughey.