The 54th running of the $300,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne Race Course appears to be wide open with shippers coming in from all points of the compass and several of the 12 horses entered could step up to claim first-place honors.
Trainer Kathleen O’Connell sends Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Watch Me Go to the starting gate as the lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite. Watch Me Go currently is ranked 18th on the Kentucky Derby (G1) graded earnings list with $232,500 in graded stakes earnings and a win today would guarantee him a spot in the Derby starting gate.
Of the Derby entrants, Watch Me Go is one of the most seasoned and he has put together a string of nice runs in his last three races with a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and a win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). If Watch Me Go repeats his Tampa Bay Derby performance he should be competitive.
Trainer Albert Stall moves Sour (6-1) up in class and ships him in from the Fair Grounds. In three starts, Sour has never finished worse than second and he appears to be a horse with potential.
With Lemon Drop Kid as his sire, the 9-furlong Derby should be well within the scope of Sour and he has room to improve in his fourth start of the year. I look for him to be competitive.
Three long shots I like are Lagoon Of Diamonds (15-1), Zoebear (10-1) and Southern Sculptor (12-1).
Since moving to the stable or Kelly Ackerman and racing at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort Lagoon Of Diamonds has improved his racing game posting a second and two first-place finishes in sprints.
On paper, Lagoon Of Diamonds looks like he would be most competitive racing in sprints but his pedigree suggests that he may be able to extend his speed farther. His sire Encosta de Lago was a champion miler in Australia but his grandsires Fairy King and Machiavellian were stamina influences.
Fairy King sired Helissio, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (1996), and Machiavellian sired Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry (2002). He also is the grandsire of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense (2007) and the Horse of the Year Zenyatta (2010).
Owner and breeder Charles Fipke obviously believes that Lagoon Of Diamonds can stretch his speed to 9-furlongs and he might be in the know. He was the owner and breeder of Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) winner Tale of Ekati (2008).
So, at double-digit odds, I’m willing use Lagoon Of Diamonds in my wagers.
Trainer Scott Becker moves Zoebear up in class and ships him in from Oaklawn Park. In five starts, Zoebear has yet to break his maiden but he’s only been off the board once and he comes into the race with three second-place finishes and one third-place finish.
Zoebear’s last two races have been decent and a recent bullet indicates that he could be ready for a break-out race.
Trainer Eric Guillot ships Southern Sculptor in from Santa Anita and he gets an honorable mention here. He has yet to break his maiden but in his last race he finished second to Midnight Interlude who I like in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Southern Sculptor has room to improve in his third start of the year and whether I use him in my wagers will depend a lot on how he looks in the post parade.