2016 Ohio Derby Preview

Once upon a time, Ohio had at least one graded stakes race. (In fact, more than one when counting action from downstate River Downs – now Belterra Park.) The richest of those races was the Ohio Derby, named for the state in which our race resides, and contested at Thistledown near Cleveland. The Ohio Derby stood as one of a number of “B” Derbies run through the summer between the Triple Crown season and the Haskell/Travers to lure horses who weren’t ready or weren’t good enough for the bright lights of the Triple Crown but who were seeking rich prizes and graded stakes fame. For many years the Ohio Derby was graded, usually a Grade 2 affair run in June but shifted all around the calendar. Demoted to Grade Three in 2010, the race shortened up from its traditional nine furlong distance to a mile and a sixteenth. A downgrade to a listed race came in 2014. With a half million dollar purse , the Ohio Derby can make strides to give the Buckeye State a graded race yet again.  For the 2016 renewal, the race goes back to nine furlongs.

And once upon a time, the Ohio Derby churned out solid horses. Notables who came to Thistledown and walked away with hardware include Smarten (1979), who won the Illinois Derby but later found fame as the broodmare sire of Smart Strike, Laurel stakes nameplate Broad Brush (1986), former Hawthorne stakes honoree Lost Code (1987), California stakes namesake King Glorious (1989), and perhaps its most famous winner Skip Away, who won the Ohio Derby at three (1996) but two years later was named horse of the year.

Partial footage of Skip Away winning the 1996 Ohio Derby. Video courtesy ESPN/Youtube.

The Ohio Derby takes place on Saturday June 25th. Each and every live day of Thistledown is streamed through the Horse Races Now app, so you can use this app to check out the Ohio Derby.

Our Nicolle Neulist looks at a pair of Grade Ones from Santa Anita Park – the Triple Bend (going short) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (going long).  Meanwhile, Paul Mazur also picks and ponders the G3 Chicago Handicap for female sprinters from Arlington.

Thistledown — Race 8– Ohio Derby — One and one-eighth miles on Dirt — post time 5:30 pm ET

On paper, this race drew very little front end speed – even less than the amount of Twitter coverage that Thistledown’s account (at)JackThistledown gave to this race.   While Clevelanders enjoy the Cavs’ championship, it should be noted that there is a half million dollar race to be run whose date has been set before LeBron tackled Steph in a best of seven.

Editorializing aside, the Ohio Derby’s lack of pace makes MO TOM tougher to swallow.  This space tries another out-of-town shipper with past graded quality – ADVENTIST.  Treadway Racing Stables owns and Leah Gyaramti trains this runner that takes the blinkers off for the Ohio Derby – a move that in her nine recorded starts has produced two wins and three more money finishes.  ADVENTIST looked like a horse on the rise after racing greenly but closing well in a sloppy Wood Memorial.  But a fourth in the G2 Peter Pan perhaps showed that the Wood wasn’t that flattering of a race.  It’s worth noting that Unified stunk up the joint last week in the Pegasus and Governor Malibu had a mediocre effort in the Belmont.  But these are the B Derbies, not the A Derbies he’s been facing and this race probably grades out like other “B” Derbies as a Grade Three.  That seems to fit him.  Aaron Gryder comes west to ride.  THATLOOKONYERFACE has never been on the dirt or been nine furlongs.  Yet he won the G3-CDN Marine last time at Woodbine chasing a slow pace and also graduated last year at two turns closing off tepid fractions.  The fact he raced on the synthetic (polytrack last year, Tapeta this year) should keep dirt lovers away.  But the nine furlong breeding is fine for this shipper.  This space takes a defensive stand on MO TOM.  He’s the class of the field if he runs back to his New Orleans form – though he hasn’t had a win since the G3 Lecomte.  As a rallying trip-dependent closer he’s going to need a clean trip.  It could be what gets him trouble, especially given a race without a dead-set front runner.  He’ll be your favorite and he makes sense – but demand a fair price or hedge with others given his needs.

Selections:

#3 ADVENTIST (3/1)

#1 THATLOOKONYERFACE (8/1)

#8 MO TOM (5/2)

Longshot: You can always count on Loooch Racing Stables to enter a horse ambitiously.  Based on their social media, perhaps they seek to win the Highest Toteboard Price trophy.  But sometimes ambition pays off, and it might with #2 MO DON’T NO (15/1).  He’s a stretchout (and not a badly bred one) in this field who could be long gone on the front if no one wants to challenge him.  WInner last time by double digits, he’s got two wire-to-wire wins in his last two.   Yes, he’s beating up on Ohio-breds.  And he’s never been in open company, let alone stakes company.  But if LeBron could bring a title to Cleveland, why not a Buckeye-bred in the Ohio Derby?  The Luis Colon/Jeffrey Radosevich jockey/trainer team is 31% wins in the last two months as well.  It’s home cookin’, Longshot style.

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