04/22/2013 2:39PM

Preakness could be target for Departing after Illinois Derby win

Four-Footed Fotos
Departing, who won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby on Saturday, might run next in the Preakness Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Departing was back in his stall on the Churchill Downs backstretch Monday morning after sharply winning the Grade 3, $750,000 Illinois Derby on Saturday at Hawthorne, and that is exactly where Departing will remain during the running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Departing’s connections, co-breeders and owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and trainer Al Stall, have not wavered in their position on the Derby. The 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points Departing earned by finishing third in the March 30 Louisiana Derby might be enough to earn him a spot in the Derby starting gate, but Stall said in the days leading up to the Illinois Derby that regardless of the outcome in Chicago, there was no chance that Departing, a gelding, would wheel back in two weeks for the Derby.

Dell Hancock of Claiborne reiterated that stance while going to the winner’s circle after Departing’s victory, and on Monday, Stall said again that Departing was not being considered for the race.

The Preakness Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico, however, might be a different story. Stall said again Monday, as he did immediately after Saturday’s win, that Departing’s connections would wait to see what happens in the Derby before announcing concrete plans, but Departing came out of his 3 1/4-length victory in good shape, Stall said, and could be good to go another round in a month’s time.

“The Preakness is a definite possibility,” Stall said. “We’ll watch the Derby and see what’s what.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Departing, breaking from post 13, raced wide around both turns on his way to a convincing victory over Fordubai and Siete de Oros on Saturday. His winning time of 1:50.78 for 1 1/8 miles produced a Beyer Speed Figure of 93, but while that figure is lower than Departing’s career best, a 97 in winning the Texas Heritage Stakes, Stall deemed Saturday’s performance Departing’s best.

“He got a lot out of the Louisiana Derby, and he didn’t get a lot out of the race in Texas or his one-other-than in New Orleans,” Stall said. “That’s what 3-year-olds do: They either go backward or forward.”

Fordubai, the Illinois Derby runner-up, also appears to be a forward-moving horse. Fordubai was lucky not to be disqualified to fourth after swerving sharply outward in the race’s final half-furlong – shying from signs in the inner rail, according to jockey Diego Sanchez – but appeared to be going better than third-place Siete de Oros and fourth-place Abraham when the incident occurred and ran quite well in his stakes debut and his second start at age 3.

Fordubai emerged from his race in good shape, trainer Greg Geier said, and also is under consideration for the Preakness. Fordubai, a Jim Tafel homebred, has run well on turf and synthetic and will have options at Arlington, Geier’s summer base.

The news was less positive from Ramon Preciado, trainer and owner of Siete de Oros. Preciado said Siete de Oros, who has returned to Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, came out of the race lame and with an as-yet undiagnosed injury. Preciado said Siete de Oros’s legs looked all right, and he speculated that he might have hurt his shoulder.

“I don’t mind the time off; I just want to find out what it is,” Preciado said.