Updated on 09/17/2011 12:34PM

Wando, Grand Hombre are twin giants in derby


ANDERSON, Ind. - Will the winner of this year's Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Derby follow in the hoofprints of the race's previous winners?

Orientate won the 2001 Indiana Derby and went on the next season to earn the Eclipse Award as the nation's top sprinter. Last year's Indiana Derby winner was Perfect Drift, who has established himself as one of the leading handicap horses in the country.

The year's Indiana Derby has lured a pair of promising runners, Wando and Grand Hombre, who seem to stand above the other nine entrants in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando invades with his sights set on the Breeders' Cup Classic later this month. He won five straight in Canada before tasting defeat against older horses in the Atto Mile at Woodbine. Owner Gustav Schickedanz and trainer Michael Keogh changed their plans for Wando after that race, pointing him to the Classic instead of the BC Mile.

Wando has put together a stellar record, winning eight races and finishing second twice in 12 career starts. The only times he has finished worse than second are in the Atto, when he checked in fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by older rivals, and in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, when he tired after pressing the early pace from post 12. Patrick Husbands, the second-leading rider at Woodbine, will be in to ride.

Standing in Wando's way Saturday are an outside draw - post 9 - and Grand Hombre, who is undefeated in four career starts.

Grand Hombre will break from the extreme outside, post 11, for his new connections, Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable and trainer Tom Albertrani. They purchased him after his five-length win in the Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day.

Grand Hombre won his career debut at Gulfstream Park in March, posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 going six furlongs for trainer Dennis Manning. Off until June after that race, Grand Hombre has earned steadily increasing Beyers in his three subsequent starts, topped by a 108 for the Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby. Grand Hombre, a son of Grand Slam, will have Edgar Prado aboard on Saturday.

The turns of this seven-eighths-mile oval are slightly tighter than at most tracks but should not pose a problem for Grand Hombre and his stalking style, as he appears to have enough speed to be able to angle in before reaching the first turn.

Wiggins, a talented Illinois-bred trained by Anthony Granitz, brings a three-race win streak to Indiana. He captured the Springfield against statebreds in June and has since won the Round Table and the Prairie Meadows Derby, his first venture outside his home state. Eddie Razo comes in to ride. Wiggins will break from post 10, between Wando and Grand Hombre.

* Gearbox is the horse to beat in the $35,000-added Hillsdale Stakes for 2-year-old Indiana-breds. The Hillsdale is carded as the seventh race, and Rodney Prescott will ride Gearbox from post 3.

* Tee to Green, a son of Lil E. Tee, rates a slight nod in the $35,000-added Fort Wayne Stakes, with Dean Butler to ride from post 4. The Fort Wayne, for 3-year-old Indiana-breds, goes as the eighth race.

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