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Maximum Capacity Field Expected for $750,000 Guaranteed Grade III Illinois Derby

The Grade 3 Illinois Derby has a long history. First contested in 1923 at Hawthorne Race Course, it has been held at a variety of racetracks since. The race was moved to Sportsman’s Park from 1924 to 1931; Aurora Downs from 1932 to 1938; back to Sportsman’s Park from 1963 to 2002, and returned to Hawthorne in 2003. The race was not contested from 1939 through 1962 and 1970-1971.

The Illinois Derby was initially run at the classic distance of one and one-quarter miles. The inaugural race was won by In Memoriam.

Arguably, the most “famous” horse to win the Illinois Derby was War Emblem in 2002. He won the final Illinois Derby held at Sportsman’s Park and was purchased by Ahmed bin Salman following that race and turned over to trainer Bob Baffert. War Emblem went on to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown; the Grade I Kentucky Derby and the Grade I Preakness and was favored to win the Grade I Belmont. A stumble at the start of the last leg of the Triple Crown almost brought the horse to his knees and kept him out of the winners circle.

Since 2003 the race has been held at Hawthorne Race Course, going a mile and an eighth over the main track. The Grade III event has a purse of $750,000 for this year’s 56th running.


Nominations for the Grade III $750,000 Guaranteed Illinois Derby closed late Saturday night with 69 horses, pending late mail. A supplementary nomination of $15,000 may be made at any time prior to entry, Wednesday, April 17th, 2013.

The Illinois Derby will take place on Saturday, April 20th and will be run at one mile and one eighth on the dirt track.

Todd Pletcher led all trainers with eight nominations, including Repole Stable's Overanalyze, winner of the Grade 2 Remsen and the Grade 2 Belmont Futurity last year and Capo Bastone, the third-place finisher in both the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Grade 1 Front Runner in 2012.

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