By Dick Downey
Dynamic Impact, a nominee to the Triple Crown, won the Illinois Derby by a nose over heavy favorite Midnight Hawk.
There were no Kentucky Derby points on the line, but perhaps trainer Mark Casse and other connections will take a look at the Preakness Stakes with the son of Tiznow.
Dynamic Impact challenged Midnight Hawk and Martin Garcia early, pressing him through early fractions of :24.11 and :48.06. They gave him a one-length lead heading into the far turn with six furlongs run in 1:12.19. At the furlong marker, Midnight Hawk looked like a winner with a 1 1/2-length lead, but Dynamic Impact came back on him under urging by Miguel Mena.
The winning time was 1:49.07.
The Mark Casse trainee came into the $500,000 Illinois Derby a maiden winner after prevailing for the first time on March 1 at Oaklawn Park. The win runs his record to 6-2-2-0.
Finishing third in the eight-horse field was Irish You Well, beaten 8 1/2 lengths, with Class Leader another 1 1/4 length back in fourth. The order of finish was filled out by King Cyrus, A Step Ahead, Emmett Park and Global Strike.
The first and last finishers scratched from the Coolmore Lexington Stakes to run in the Illinois Derby.
Dynamic Impact was bred in Kentucky by Blue Heaven Farm LLC and is out of Featherbed, by Smart Strike. John Oxley is the owner.
The 9-1 upsetter paid $21.20 to win, $6.00 to place and $4.80 to show.
Midnight Hawk has sufficient Kentucky Derby points to make the field. Whether trainer Bob Baffert will send him on to Louisville with the Kentucky Derby in mind was anyone’s guess going into the Illinois Derby.
Mark Casse: "He was training really well at Keeneland and I had to think long and hard about whether to run him in the Lexington or the Illinois Dery. I kind of thought Hawthorne is similar to Oaklawn, so I thought we would have a bit of an edge going in there. I didn't know if we could beat Midnight Hawk, but I thought he might not want to get a mile and an eighth.
"We'll talk about it with Mr. Oxley; I would be really surprised if we end up at the Preakness, but if that's where he wants to go, that's where we'll be. We'll talk about it, but for now we're just going to cherish this victory. It's been a funny spring; we've lost some big races by three or four inches this year, so it was nice to be on the winning end of the photo in this one."
Miguel Mena: "My horse broke OK, he didn't break too sharp, but (Midnight Hawk) wasn't having any pressure at all, and I was like, 'I've got to do something, that horse is speed and I can't let him go.’
“I was glad I was able to put him on the outside at the quarter pole. He wasn’t liking it on the inside, and I had no choice since I had to put some pressure. By the time we got to the one-eighths pole, I said he’s coming back, he’s coming back.”
Martin Garcia, aboard Midnight Hawk: “He got a little tired.”