Previewing the 2018 Ride to the Million: American Derby Preview

Run for the 104th time this year, and boasting a purse of $100,000, the American Derby began at the old Washington Park, was run once at Hawthorne, resurfaced at the second Washington Park, but has been based at Arlington since 1958.  Its very first edition, run in 1884, was won by a horse who lends her name to one of the other co-featured stakes on this card: Modesty.  Two Triple Crown winners count themselves winners of the American Derby as well: Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948).  Prominent sires Native Dancer (1953), Round Table (1957), and Buckpasser (1966) also won this race.

Audio of the call for the 1954 American Derby, won by Errard King — who swept the Arlington Classic and the American Derby when both were run on dirt.

Originally on the dirt, the race has gone through many incarnations, but was moved to the turf for good (well, barring horrid rainstorms…) in 1992, the same year Illinois-bred The Name’s Jimmy took the laurels.  It currently serves as the local prep for the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes.  Two horses have parlayed a victory in the American Derby into Secretariat Stakes glory: Honor Glide (1997) and Gun Salute (2005).

In separate pieces, we preview the Arlington Handicap (G3), the Modesty Handicap (G3), the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3)and the Hatoof Stakes.

Selections have been made for turf only.  Morning lines were not available at original publish time.  Updated Thursday, July 5 with morning lines.

Arlington Park – Saturday, July 7

Race 5: American Derby (G3), three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 3:41pm CDT

This year’s edition of the American Derby drew a field of eight.  EZMOSH comes in off an easy victory in the Arlington Classic (G3), and though this field is tougher than the one he faced last month, EZMOSH should be able to win right back.  There’s some other speed in the American Derby in the form of REAL STORY and TAP DADDY — but EZMOSH proved in the Arlington Classic that hecan be just effective from off the pace as on it.  Though his victory came over a yielding turf surface, a win over firm turf at Fair Grounds suggests he does not need cut in the ground to do his best.  The son of Tizway keeps top Arlington rider Jose Valdivia in the irons, and trainer Brad Cox is shrewd with shippers.  EZMOSH looks a strong and well-placed entrant, and he looks primed to cross the wire first.

DUBBY DUBBIE steps into stakes company for the first time.  He is in just the right form to do it, coming off a pair of allowance wins at Churchill Downs.  Jockey Jack Gilligan rode him to both of those allowance victories, showing he knows how to use DUBBY DUBBIE’s track-and-pounce style to best advantage.  The gelded son of Ice Box had shown more early speed earlier in his career, but this new running style that has flourished with Gilligan will fit the flow of the American Derby well.  The distance also suits; one of DUBBY DUBBIE’s allowance wins at Churchill came at the same nine-furlong distance as Saturday’s race.  Trainer Michelle Lovell is also a positive, as she spots shippers well.  She also has a pretty good eye for finding stakes horses in the claim box.  She claimed DUBBY DUBBIE for $30,000 last year at Churchill — and she is the same trainer who picked up Fault, last year’s Pucker Up (G3) winner and a Grade 1 winner on dirt this year, from the claim box.

CAPTIVATING MOON comes in the class of this field, with fast-closing second-place finishes in both the Transylvania (G3) and the American Turf (G2).  He faced tougher foes in both of those starts than he does here.  Though both of those races came on yielding going, he has maiden and allowance wins on firm turf, including a maiden win at Arlington.  The surface should suit him well.  The problem — and the reason that he does not show up on top — is that CAPTIVATING MOON has so many underneath finishes whether the pace is particularly fast or slow.  CAPTIVATING MOON’s best could very well win the American Derby — but it could also have won the Mystic Lake Derby, and could also have won the Columbia earlier this year.  He is difficult to count out entirely here, between the honest pace in front of him and the beautiful breeding for the distance (he is a Malibu Moon half to Vacare, a Grade 1 winner at nine furlongs on grass).  But, he is difficult to love on top at a short price, particularly after the third-place finish at Canterbury.


#5 EZMOSH (5/2)



Longshot:  Trainer Ignacio Correas sends out a pair in here.  Though the distance might suit REAL STORY — he is a half-brother to the long-winded My Afleet, albeit by sprinter Fast Bullet — he does his best on the front end and will likely have TAP DADDY to contend with there.  Instead, #3 PONT DU GARD (10/1) appeals a bit more.  He needs to improve here; he finished second in the Arlington Classic, well behind EZMOSH, and this field is on a whole tougher.  But, PONT DU GARD keeps local rider Jose Lopez in the irons from that outing.  Though that race was over yielding ground, both of his career wins have come over firm going.  Though PONT DU GARD is an off-pace type, he doesn’t tend to drop so far back he has too much to do late, like rail-drawn KITTEN A GETTIN does.  It would be difficult to see PONT DU GARD win this race — that would require a large step forward — but among the price horses he is the most likely to invade the top three and snag a share.


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