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Illinois Derby analysis by “The Professor”

Illinois Derby analysis by “The Professor”

By M. Scott McMannis

Sweetnorthernsaint (4-1 morning line odds, Trombetta/ Desormeaux) appears to be the top contender in the field of 10 for today’s 49th running of the Illinois Derby (GII). 

Since adding blinkers, Sweetnorthernsaint has finished first three times and most recently finished third by just three-quarters of a length in the Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct.  Kent Desormeaux rode Sweetnorthernsaint in the Gotham, and will ride him again today.  Desormeaux won last year’s Illinois Derby with Greeley’s Galaxy.

Sweetnorthernsaint has shown early speed and has stalked the pace, giving him versatility.  His Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) for his last three races have been 102-104-104, making him the only one in the field with triple-digit BSF’s.

Cause to Believe (5-2, Hollendorfer/ Baze) has never finished worse than second in nine career races, and could keep that record intact today.  His career earnings of $335,565 are almost three times the next largest bankroll in today’s race.  In his last two starts Cause To Believe won the California Derby at Golden Gate and the El Camino Real (GIII) at Bay Meadows.  Russell Baze, one of the winningest riders in history, was aboard for both victories and will be again today.

Cause To Believe has shown steady improvement through his last five starts, posting a career-high BSF of 98 in his most recent race.  Cause To Believe is owned in partnership by local horse owner Peter Abruzzo with Peter Redekop.

Racketeer (5-1, Frankel/Valenzuela) is the most lightly-raced colt in the field with just four starts, and only his last was a route where he finished fourth in the San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita.  He has shown steady, if modest, improvement in his last three races. 

In his last start Racketeer earned a BSF of 98.  However, since today will be his second start off the layoff and second around two turns, it would not be surprising to see him continue to improve.  Regular rider Patrick Valenzuela is aboard.

Mister Triester (8-1, Stute/Blanc) hit his career high BSF of 94 in his second start back, and then declined to an 87 in his most recent race, the Santa Catalina (GII) at Santa Anita.  However, it should be noted that in the Santa Catalina Mister Triester dueled for the lead in a quick pace for six furlongs before tiring.  Brice Blanc takes over the reins.

The wild card in the Illinois Derby is turfer Lewis Michael (20-1, Catalano/Alvarado).  Owned by perennial leading owner in Chicago, Frank Calabrese, Lewis Michael has only raced on the main track once in his career, that in his first start.  Jockey Frank Alvarado goes up for the first time.

Third-tier contenders would appear to be My Golden Song (5-1, Pletcher/DeCarlo) and Devilofarush (30-1, Maker/Baird).  My Golden Song has been on the improve and posted a 93 BSF in his most recent start.  Devilofarush posted a 92 BSF in winning his last start, an allowance race here at Hawthorne.

Rounding out the field are Malameeze (8-1, Barnett/McKee), Creative Force (30-1, Block/Perez), and Itsallboutthechase (12-1, Simms/Emigh).  Malameeze most recently finished third in the Land’s End (GII) at Turfway Park with a BSF of 87.  Creative Force finished second to Devilofarush in his last start, earning an 87 BSF in that allowance race.  Itsallboutthechase was a well-beaten ninth in the Fountain Of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream in his most recent start, earning a BSF of 82.

The Illinois Derby is race seven with a local post time of 4:12 PM.

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