Hawthorne Hosts $250,000 Illinois Derby

Saturday’s $250,000 Grade III Illinois Derby returns to Hawthorne Race Course after a 1-year hiatus as management secured its purse funding. While the race will not produce any Kentucky Derby entries, it is certainly one to watch for Preakness Stakes candidates.

Hawthorne management has moved the race to an evening time slot, and a credible and competitive seven-horse field will showcase some promising 3-year-olds looking to make the Preakness Stakes their next stop.

Hedge Fund (3-1) set the blistering pace before finishing 3rd in the Sunland Derby (G3) in New Mexico the end of March. The Super Saver colt trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race four times, will more likely be in stalking position behind Stand and Cheer (8-1) and perhaps St. Louis Guy (6-1) as the field turns for home in the 1 1/8 mile race.

It’s Your Nickel (6-1) won the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park and finished 6th in the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland just two weeks ago. He’s the only stakes winner in field, but none have won a graded race. The closer to watch is Hollywood Handsome (4-1), who rallied from last to finish 4th  Inthe Grade II Louisiana Derby, just 3 lengths back of Girvin, who tops the Kentucky Derby points list.

Mr. Misunderstood (7-2) can also close and he’s won three in a row and progressed in each race. Perhaps that’s why trainer Brad Cox, who wins at a 24% rate with shippers, has entered him here despite two of those wins coming over the turf at the Fair Grounds and the other on a sloppy track.

Multiplier (9-2) breaks from the rail and has speed, but the distance and step up are questions to be answered.

Watch the Illinois Derby with an eye towards the Preakness Stakes. Same with the main local prep for the Preakness when a small field of five enter the starting gate for Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Laurel Park.

Race 5: April 22 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne Racecours, three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 6:17pm CDT

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