07/05/2012 4:45PM

Thistledown: Prospective must stay clear of Ohio Derby rivals

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Barbara D. Livingston
Prospective has four stakes victories from 10 career starts.

Trainer Mark Casse is well aware that a short field can spell trouble for an odds-on favorite in the case of a too-slow pace.

“These races do seem to become quite a bit more tactical,” said Casse.

So the goal on Saturday at Thistledown for heavily favored Prospective and his jockey, Jermaine Bridgmohan, is to do whatever necessary to stay close enough to pounce while remaining out of trouble in the 78th running of the Ohio Derby. Prospective, who will start from post 1 in a field of just five 3-year-olds entered in the 1 1/16-mile race, “can kind of do a little bit of anything,” said Casse. “If they want to walk early, he can be right there with them.”

Prospective clearly is the most accomplished horse in the Grade 3, $100,000 Ohio Derby. Owned by John Oxley, the dark bay colt already is a four-time stakes winner from 10 lifetime starts, with his most notable score coming in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March. His earnings of $535,235 are nearly double the combined total of his four Saturday opponents.

“I guess it does look like a pretty nice spot for us,” said Casse. “My main objective is getting him back on the dirt and hopefully seeing him run a big race that maybe could justify us bringing him back in something like the Jim Dandy or Haskell.”

Prospective was scheduled to make the four-hour van ride from his Woodbine base in Canada to Thistledown in suburban Cleveland in the wee hours of Saturday morning. “He’ll leave about midnight,” said Casse. “It’s basically the same thing we did with him this winter when we’d van him over the four hours from Palm Meadows to Tampa on the morning of his races.”

None of the four horses facing Prospective has won so much as an open stakes race, and all are still eligible for a second-level allowance. In gate order from post 2, they are Politicallycorrect, Defiant Flyer, Z Rockstar, and Swage. The most logical upsetters are Politicallycorrect, most recently third behind Teeth of the Dog in the Easy Goer on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard, and Z Rockstar, third in the Prairie Meadows Mile in his last start.

The Ohio Derby, the eighth of nine Saturday races, is the only graded race in the state. In recent years its purse and prestige have suffered while its spot on the racing calendar has bounced around, although officials are hopeful that, with the onset of alternative gaming in the state, the race will undergo a resurgence in the coming years.

The Ohio Derby will anchor a program that begins at 1:50 p.m. Eastern, with the feature going at 5:32. The card also includes the $50,000 Cleveland Kindergarten (race 6), a 5 1/2-furlong race in which trainer Tim Hamm has a five-ply entry among the 12 2-year-olds entered.