The last three winners of the Ohio Derby (GIII) used the Run for the Roses as a springboard to Thistledown’s signature race and, this year, two more who ran in Louisville on the first Saturday in May will make their appearance in this year’s renewal and face ten others.
The Cleveland weather has been typical of this time of year, though a bit cooler heading into the weekend. The afternoon high on Saturday is forecasted to be in the mid-70s, but the humidity will be high and thunderstorms are likely. Best to handicap for a wet track, too — just in case.
The ill-fated Irap emerged victorious here a year ago, and followed fellow Derby also-rans Mo Tom and Mr. Z from the two previous years. But other top runners to have emerged victorious in this nine-furlong post-Triple Crown Derby include Brass Hat, Milwaukee Brew, Skip Away, Lost Code, Broad Brush, Skip Trial, and Derby winner Black Gold back in 1924.
Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway is the 5-2 morning line favorite off of his 13th-place finish in the Derby. While the 10-furlong distance or off surface may have been the Scat Daddy colt’s Achilles heel in the Run for the Roses, perhaps it was just that he was overmatched in the talent department. The Blue Grass Stakes (GII) runner-up gets a significant class break here and should have no trouble with the distance or the fact the surface may be wet at post time. It’s a good bet Jose Lezcano will put this one on or close to the early pace for trainer Mark Casse.
Lone Sailor was a fairly decent eighth in the Derby after a second in the Louisiana Derby (GII). It’s safe to say the Derby competition was over his head, and he didn’t do much more in the Preakness Stakes (GI), though just two lengths behind Triple Crown winner Justify in his worst career performance. Irad Ortiz, who was aboard at Pimlico, returns for trainer Tom Amoss, who tightened the girth on Mo Tom before victory two years ago. A predicted quick early pace will be the best chance for this son of Majestic Warrior to make the wire in front.
Core Beliefs was second behind Blended Citizen in the May 12 Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park and was previously third to Justify and Bolt D’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby. He’s definitely improved in his last three starts for trainer Peter Eurton and his best — likely on the front end — under Joe Talamo may be good enough for the slight upset.
Federico Tesio Stakes winner Diamond King was a non-threatening seventh, beating just one with some trouble, in the Preakness Stakes in what was his first off-the-board finish, having only previously finished worse than second once when he dropped his rider after a bad break last November. He’s been training well at Parx for trainer Jason Servis and if he has a clean trip, judging by his overall figures, should surely be in the mix for a larger share of the pie.
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O’Kratos won his last two at Woodbine over the all-weather surface, including a Grade 3, but has yet to test a dirt surface and this distance. Channing Hill rides the son of Paddy O’Prado for Canadian-based trainer Darwin Banach.
Title Ready, who is one in here for Steve Asmussen, was a distant sixth behind Ax Man in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard. He has a nice pedigree and should handle the distance and is another who will likely be part of an early pace scenario.
Dream Baby Dream is Asmussen’s other runner, who hasn’t won a race in a long time. He was second in the Sunland Derby (GIII) in what was his best career performance and the competition isn’t getting any softer here.
Machismo hasn’t done much in three graded starts since breaking his maiden by 11 lengths at Gulfstream in February. While this is a bit softer company than those last three, he will need to summon every ounce of potential to be effective here.
New Mexico shipper Trigger Warning is coming off a nice win in the Tom Ridge Stakes at Presque Isle Downs, but this son of Candy Ride hasn’t posted a single effort in his 10-race career to indicate he belongs here.
Former claimer Takedown hasn’t done much since being haltered for $20,000 in September, though his optional claiming win at Laurel in April was decent. He has been working well and the rail at Thistledown is actually a good spot to break from these days.
Last Drop of Wine is another former claimer who hasn’t shown a thing since being haltered for $30,000 in December. And fellow former claimer Caloric is really in way over his head.