May 27, 2024

Illinois Derby can flatter Kentucky Derby contenders

Sunland Derby (G3) winner Hence will be ridden by Mike Smith in the Iowa Derby (G3) (Coady Photography)

Saturday’s $250,000 Illinois Derby (G3) no longer funnels horses to the Kentucky Derby but the 1 1/8-mile event at Hawthorne Race Course has value. It serves as a possible prep for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the May 20 Preakness at Pimlico, and features several contestants who have been competing against Kentucky Derby runners.

Hedge Fund has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite and the Todd Pletcher-trained colt exits a third in his stakes debut, the March 26 Sunland Derby (G3), to Kentucky Derby-bound Hence, who easily proved best by a 3 ¾-length margin. To say the Sunland Derby has taken observers by surprise in recent weeks is an understatement.

Irap was the first to strike, bouncing forward off a fourth-place effort in the Sunland Derby in which he was beaten 8 ½ lengths to upset the Blue Grass (G2) at 31-1 odds. Sunland Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money came back last weekend to finish an outstanding second at 17-1 in the Arkansas Derby (G1), the only horse battling on a hot pace to be around at the finish.

Hedge Fund, who is by Super Saver, can continue to flatter the Sunland Derby winner with a victory Saturday.

Hollywood Handsome, the 4-1 third choice on the Illinois Derby morning line, is trying to make Girvin look good after a fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Trained by Dallas Stewart, he offered a stout but belated closing kick to be beaten only three lengths by the winning Girvin while making his stakes debut last time at Fair Grounds.

It’s Your Nickel can provide a positive line upon the Blue Grass runners with a strong showing. He wasn’t a serious factor last time, finishing sixth at Keeneland, but the five horses in front of him – Irap, Practical Joke, McCraken, J Boys Echo and Tapwrit – are all scheduled to return for the Kentucky Derby.

To follow Kentucky Derby workers at Churchill Downs, check out the 2017 Kentucky Derby Workouts page at

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