J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
this week's racing action might be a bit quiet compared to the last couple of
weekends at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, there's still a solid lineup of
stakes races scheduled to be run, including the $500,000 Ohio Derby (gr. III)
at Thistledown, which includes four horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby. Let's
Ohio Derby (gr. III)
its purse raised to $500,000 after dipping as low as $100,000 a few years ago,
the Ohio Derby has regained Grade 3 status for the 2017 renewal, and the grade-coupled
with the large purse-has attracted a quality field of nine three-year-olds.
though the Ohio Derby has struggled for the better part of the last decade, it
has remained a race that is difficult to win. Each of the last nine Ohio Derby
winners had previously contested a Grade 1 race, and four of them-Mo Tom, Mr.
Z, Prospective, and Smooth Air-had run in the Kentucky Derby.
this in mind, it could be wise to focus our attention on Irap, Untrapped, Girvin, and Fast and Accurate, the four Ohio Derby starters that contested the
Kentucky Derby. Of the quartet, I'll lean against Fast and Accurate, who is
0-for-2 on dirt, and also Untrapped, whose form suggests that nine furlongs
might be a bit farther than he wants to run.
leaves Irap and Girvin as the two that interest me most. Irap entered the Derby off
an upset win in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II), in which he defeated a deep
field that included the two-time Grade 1 winner Practical Joke, the Grade 2
winner McCraken, and future Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Tapwrit.
the Kentucky Derby, Irap had a relatively trouble-free trip, settling in sixth
early on before steadily fading to finish eighteenth. However, you can make a
case that he was racing too wide on a track that was favoring the rail, and by
falling farther off the early pace than usual, he might have been out of his
comfort zone. A return to pace-pressing tactics in the Ohio Derby could yield a
significantly improved performance.
for Girvin, most of his Derby trouble was of the pre-race variety, as a widely-publicized
hoof issue caused him to miss some training before the race. In the Derby
itself, Girvin was able to save some ground early on while racing in mid-pack,
but got jostled around in traffic on the far turn before finishing thirteenth.
Overall, it wasn't an eye-catching effort, but Girvin came into the Derby
unbeaten on dirt with late-running wins in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and
Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) on his record. Jockey Mike Smith retains the mount,
and Smith has been on an incredible roll as of late, going 7-for-13 since June
10th with six of those wins coming in graded stakes victories.
Girvin's overall form is more consistent than Irap's, I'm leaning toward Girvin
for the top spot, and there's another reason to prefer his chances in the Ohio
Derby, and that is the possibility of a fast pace. Loooch Racing has entered
three colts in this race, with the late-running Game Over being the most prominent. Game Over is 2-for-2 in his
brief career, earning decent Beyer speed figures for victories in a maiden
claiming race at Oaklawn and a starter allowance race at Churchill Downs. Both
of those were sprints, but Game Over has beaten some good horses and is bred to
stretch out, making him an intriguing longshot candidate to hit the board.
other two Loooch Racing runners, Talk
Less and Vibe, have less
impressive records, but Vibe recently won a nine-furlong allowance race at Churchill
Downs in gate-to-wire fashion, and it wouldn't come as a shock if Vibe is
utilized as a pacemaker for his stablemates. This strategy was successfully
employed by Loooch Racing in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) two months ago,
in which longshot Cautious Giant carved out a fast pace for stablemates
Imperative and War Story, who wound up finishing first and third.
Fast and Accurate also figures to race on or near the lead, I believe the Ohio
Derby pace will be fairly quick, which could compromise Irap and favor the
chances of Girvin. He might be the
morning line favorite, but I also believe he's the most likely winner.
it's your turn! Who do you like in the Ohio Derby?
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.