The Illinois Derby will be held on Saturday, April 7th at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney/Cicero, Illinois. It’s just outside the Chicago city limits and about three miles north of Midway International Airport. It will be run at a distance on nine furlongs (1 ⅛ miles) on the dirt. Post time is slated for 5:45 CT and the race will be shown locally on WGN-TV.
For a look at the probable runners in this race as of publish time, check out this article from The Downey Profile.
For a preview of the event, check back later in the week. The field will be drawn on Wednesday April 4.
Without a single graded stakes race in the first three months of the year in Illinois, it’s easy to scoff at the role of of Illinois in Derby preps. But let’s look at the record of Illinois (Arlington two year old races, Illinois Derby) on the Kentucky Derby.
(Note 1: Bold titles are for the horse, BOLD TITLES in all capital letters are active horses.)
(Note 2: Prior to 2003, the Illinois Derby was at Sportsman’s Park, just north of Hawthorne. Prior to 2001, the Illinois Derby was held in May, usually on the second Saturday and sandwiched between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.)
2001: In an uninspiring renewal, Saint Damien was that year's runner up in the Illinois Derby. Later that summer, he would be fourth in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park. **Held at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, IL
2002: Kentucky Derby winner, Preakness winner, Haskell winner, and Three-Year-Old Champion War Emblem won the Illinois Derby. **Held at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, IL
2003: G1 Travers Stakes won by Ten Most Wanted, who also won the Illinois Derby. (See below for video.)
2004: Pollard’s Vision won a few G3 races, earned over a million dollars, and was the sire of Blind Luck (who beat 2011 Horse of the Year HAVRE DE GRACE in the 2011 Delaware Handicap). He won the Illinois Derby in 2004.
2005: Magna Graduate, who earned over $2.5M while winning a number of Grade Two and Grade Three stakes (and was third in the 2006 Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race) was third in the Illinois Derby.
2006: Preakness 2nd place for Sweetnorthernsaint, who won the Illinois Derby.
2007: A weak Illinois Derby. But Illinois was represented well. The Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes that year were won by Street Sense, who was third in the G3 2006 Arlington-Washington Futurity.
2008: Kentucky Derby 5th place for RECAPTURETHEGLORY, who won the Illinois Derby. He later won a G3 at Churchill during the summer.
2009: After winning the Illinois Derby, Musket Man, was third in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. GIANT OAK, two time Illinois Horse of the Year was second. (Honorable mention: CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN was fifth and had an awful trip in the 2008 Arlington-Washington Futurity, then won the G1 King’s Bishop) See video:
2010: YAWANNA TWIST was fourth in the Preakness after being second in the Illinois Derby. (Honorable Mention: She Be Wild was crowned the two-year-old filly champion at the start of the year. She won (in reverse chronological order) the BC Juvenile Fillies, the Alcibiadies, and the Arlington-Washington Lassie.
2011: The Illinois Derby was very weak that year. However, the Kentucky Derby and Three-Year-Old Championship Won by ANIMAL KINGDOM, who was 2nd at first asking at Arlington Park. (Honorable mention: CALEB’S POSSE, who appeared in Arlington-Washington Futurity, won BC Dirt Mile, and was runner in up Eclipse voting for Champion Three-Year-Old)
The list above shows that the Illinois Derby (and by extension, juvenile races at Arlington Park) have quite the honor roll. Look for a future star to possibly come forth in the Illinois Derby.