Catching Freedom the Solid Ohio Derby Choice; Odds, Picks

Up this weekend on the post-Triple Crown schedule for 3-year-olds is the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown, a race first run in 1876 and contested annually since 1952.

The race sure doesn’t sound like a blockbuster on the first Saturday of summer, but the field of 10 has a bunch of familiar names from the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.

Catching Freedom. Coady Photo.

Catching Freedom will make his first start since a third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes

Catching Freedom, fourth in the Derby and third in the Preakness, tops the field as the 9-5 favorite from post 8 for trainer Brad Cox. Luis Saez has the call.

Uncle Heavy, winner of the Withers Stakes (G3) but fifth in the Wood Memorial and sixth in the Preakness, is the 6-1 fourth choice. He leaves from post 5 under Mychel Sanchez for trainer Butch Reid.

And there’s Mugatu, who, despite only a maiden win in 12 starts, including eighth in the Preakness, is at 12-1 for trainer Jeff Engler out of post 10 under Ramon Vazquez.

After the Preakness on May 18, the plan was to give Catching Freedom some time off after five races in five months, including a win in the Louisiana Derby (G2). But Cox says the colt has been training so well that the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby seems to be a good fit.

Copper Tax, the second choice at 7-2, races for the first time since winning the Federico Teseo Stakes at Laurel Park on April 20. Trainer Gary Capuano decided to skip to Preakness even though Copper Tax earned an automatic spot in the field with his most recent win.

With a heat advisory in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and temperatures expected to top 90 degrees on Saturday, the Thistledown dirt surface should be fast, making for a lively pace and putting Catching Freedom in a strong rallying position.

The picks: 1 Catching Freedom 2 Copper Tax 3 Batten Down

The field for the $500,000 Ohio Derby, from the rail out, with jockey trainer, odds:

1 Frizzante (Isaac Castillo, Greg Sacco), 15-1

2 Gould’s Gold (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Ken McPeek), 5-1

3 Charleston (Luis Rivera, Michael Rone), 30-1

4 Copper Tax (J G Torrealba, Gary Capuano), 7-2

5 Uncle Heavy (Mychel Sanchez, Butch Reid, Jr.), 6-1

6 Deposition (Dexter Haddock, Uriah St. Lewis), 12-1

7 Who’s the King (Rocco Bowen, Safie Joseph, Jr.), 20-1

8 Catching Freedom (Luis Saez, Brad Cox), 9-5

9 Batten Down (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott), 8-1

10 Mugatu (Ramon Vazquez, Jeff Engler), 12-1

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