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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Illinois Derby Could Be Pletcher's Stepping Stone


By Dick Downey

It's possible Todd Pletcher will have just one Kentucky Derby horse, and the name of that horse is Our Entourage.

At the moment, Pletcher has exactly one 3-year-old among the top 20 graded stakes earners. El Padrino is sitting in a precarious perch at number 18. Gemologist, favored in the Grade I Wood Memorial on Saturday, has $103,855 in graded money. If he wins he's in, but if he finishes, say, second in the Wood, he'll have exactly $3,855 more in graded earnings than El Padrino -- meaning he could be on the bubble himself.

Stat will probably run in the Arkansas Derby on April 14, but he only has $30,000 in graded earnings, and he's not the most seasoned horse around. A second in the Arkansas Derby would leave him at $230,000, and, well, you can see where this is going.

Mike Repole, the energetic owner of Uncle Mo, looked forward to 2012 last year with Overdrive.  But he was sidelined for many months and only recently found his way back to the worktab, leaving Repole with a horse that might be best on the grass trying to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby -- Our Entourage.

Our Entourage has a real shot at winning the 1 1/8-mile, Grade III Illinois Derby on Saturday. While he might be better on grass -- Our Entourage looked sharp in his most recent allowance race -- he could be good enough on dirt for Hawthorne. Fifth, beaten two lengths in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade II Remsen last November, Our Entourage didn't make his 2012 debut until that grass allowance, and he outran anything he did last year. He has the pedigree and experience to get this distance with no problem. All signals are green.

One caveat. If Our Entourage wins the Illinois Derby, that doesn't necessarily mean he'd run back in the Kentukcy Derby, Pletcher said this past Tuesday.

Does a horse that ran second by seven lengths in his last race have a chance to win? If he ran second to Gemologist, the answer could be yes. Currency Swap also makes his second start of the year in the Illinois Derby, and if he moves forward from his 2012 debut, he could be hard to handle. His pedigree, though, is not as appealing-looking as that of the top choice.

Pretension comes in from Maryland, and trainer intention certainly looks sincere. He was stuck on the rail in the Grade III Gotham last time and finished well back, but he was well back of Hansen, and he's never otherwise finished worse than second. A negative is that his two stakes races came against fellow New York-breds.

I used Done Talking in the Gotham only to see him do nothing. But he's also making the trip from Maryland and looks for redemption. Maybe he needed a race. Should he be left out of the selections? A decision to the contrary could result in that queasy feeling.

Morgan's Guerilla is an expensive horse that comes in for trainer Mike Maker and the politically-connected Conway's of Kentucky. A $250,000 son of Ghostzapper out of a Saint Ballado mare, Morgan's Guerilla is bred for this combat, and he's tenacious. But he's green, with only two prior starts. What to do.

The two Hawthorne-based horses, Fastestwhogetspaid and Frankie Is Rock, have racing backgrounds similar to each other that make them look non-threatening.

Hakama is one that initally got my attention, but he couldn't beat Raconteur, who's been on Pletcher's B-team all year, in the $75,000 Private Terms.

Ring It Up has run in graded stakes company, finishing fourth to Castaway in a division of the Grade III Southwest, but Castaway didn't flatter the form of the horses he beat when he came back in the Grade III Sunland Derby a couple of weekends ago.

In addition to Ring It Up, there are three Oaklawn invaders, any of which could surpise, but it's difficult to make a case for two of them in a rational way. Oklahoma-bred Z Rockstar looks best of the three on paper with a chance to hit the board.



Saturday, Race 9
Grade III Illinois Derby
Purse: $500,000
Distance: 1 1/8 Mile
Surface: Dirt
Post Time: 6:46 ET

Post Horse   ML Jockey Wt S M Trainer
1 Romancing the Gold (PA)   15-1 I. Ortiz Jr. 122 G L J. Englehart
2 Hakama (KY)   6-1 J. Pimentel 122 C L M. Trombetta
3 Ring It Up (KY)   15-1 L. Wade 122 C L C. Richard
4 Currency Swap (FL)   4-1 S. Bridgmohan 122 C L T. Pompay
5 Pretension (NY)   5-1 J. Santiago 122 C L C. Grove
6 Skyring (KY)   20-1 R. Vazquez 122 C L D. W. Lukas
7 Saturday Launch (KY)   15-1 C. Emigh 122 G L K. McPeek
8 Z Rockstar (OK)   10-1 Q. Hamilton 122 C L D. Von Hemel
9 Fastestwhogetspaid (ON)   30-1 I. Ocampo 122 C L B. Williamson
10 Frankie Is Rock (KY)   30-1 E. Perez 122 C L R. Aquilar
11 Our Entourage (KY)   9-2 E. Castro 122 C L T. Pletcher
12 Morgan's Guerilla (KY)   10-1 R. Napravnik 122 C L M. Maker
13 Done Talking (KY)   20-1 S. Rusell 122 C L H. Smith
14 Slamit (FL)   20-1 C. Hill 122 C L T. Ice
  ALSO ELIGIBLE              
15 Explain (KY)   20-1 F. Torres 122 C L B. Cox
16 Arm Force (KY)   15-1 E. Castro 122 C   E. Harty
17 Defiant Flyer (TX)   30-1 S. Martinez 122 G L L. Davis

Equipment Changes: 10 - Frankie Is Rock - Blinkers On
Owners: 1 - Orlando DiRienzo, Brous Stable (Nils Brous) & Wachtel Stable (Adam Wachtel) ; 2 - Harry C. & Tom O. Meyerhoff ; 3 - James McIngvale ; 4 - Klaravich Stables, Inc. (Seth Klarman) & William Lawrence ; 5 - Kidwells Petite Stable (Irving Kidwell) ; 6 - Bluegrass Hall LLC (Brad M. Kelley) ; 7 - Stephen R. Baker ; 8 - Robert H. Zoellner ; 9 - Oak Knoll Farm (Michael Fitch) & Team Wilcox (Jim & Angela Wilcox) ; 10 - Jose Luis Gonzalez ; 11 - Repole Stable (Michael Repole) ; 12 - F. Thomas & Jack Conway, Trey Thorton & Gary Carter ; 13 - Skeedattle Stable (Willie White, Lou Rehak & Robert Orndolf) ; 14 - Black Gold Racing (Leonard Blach & Ray Willis) ; 15 - Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. (Richard & Karen Papiese) ; 16 - Casner Racing, LP (Bill Casner) ; 17 - Double D. Stables, Inc. (Liane P. Davis) & Steve Lewis
Breeders: 1 - Dr. & Mrs. Thomas Bowman & Rebecca Davis; 2 - Claiborne Farm; 3 - Clover IV Stables; 4 - Stonecliff Farm; 5 - Sequel Thoroughbreds LLC &A. Lakin & Sons Inc; 6 - Bluegrass Hall, LLC; 7 - Bloodstock Holdings LLC; 8 - Robert H. Zoellner; 9 - Kinghaven Farms Limited; 10 - Forging Oaks LLC; 11 - Colts Neck Stables, LLC; 12 - Rutledge Farm & Hermen Greenberg; 13 - Skeedattle Associates; 14 - Loren Nichols & Dr. Joseph Tripi; 15 - Mueller Thoroughbred Stable, LTD.; 16 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 17 - Liane Davis & Steve Lewis

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