Photo: Four Footed Fotos
Joel Quenneville has seen better days. First, in heartbreaking fashion, his defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, when the rival Blues tied it with only seconds remaining, before ultimately taking a 2-0 playoff series lead in overtime. Approximately 15 minutes later and more pertinent to this article, his co-owned star colt was denied victory in the final stride today in front of a large crowd at Hawthorne Race Course. A healthy percentage of those fans, by the way, are Blackhawks supporters.
This afternoon’s $500,000 Illinois Derby may not have produced any 2014 Kentucky Derby starters, but what it did provide was a thrilling finish. On the wire, it was the lightly regarded Dynamic Impact making one final successful thrust to get his nose on the wire over the heavily favored Midnight Hawk. For the winner, the victory marked a swift ascent from maiden to graded stakes winner in less than two months.
Meanwhile, for the 2-5 Midnight Hawk, it was another solid effort, but disappointing finish. After bobbling at the break, the gray colt shot right to the lead under rider Martin Garcia, and made all the fractions of :24.11, :48.06, 1:12.09. Dynamic Impact was always his closest competitor, as the 9-1 shot stayed within a length of the Bob Baffert trainee throughout. The favorite briefly spurted out to a length and a half advantage at the top of the lane but began his all too familiar pattern of racing greenly down the stretch.
That was all Dynamic Impact, and rider, Miguel Mena, needed to edge closer, and the two would battle it out to the wire in the final sixteenth. Despite tiring late, Midnight Hawk remained a difficult foe to get past, with only the final jump seeing the upset come to fruition.
The tough defeat marked the third consecutive bridesmaid finish for the colt with the Chicago connections, and his fourth straight loss since winning the Grade 3 Sham in his second career start. Irish You Well, still a maiden, was the best of the rest, and finished third some 8 ½ lengths between the top pair.
"As soon as I got outside he picked it up," said Mena. "He kept coming, kept coming. I hit him on the shoulder, he never gave up. I'm happy we got to the outside, that's where the running started. From the quarter pole, I got excited. I knew I was going to be dangerous. Then at the very end the horse (Midnight Hawk), he never took off. He was getting tired and we were coming. I wasn't sure I had it. You never know with head bobs, you think you had it and then you didn't. I'm glad it worked out."
With the victory, the John Oxley owned, and Mark Casse trained, Dynamic Impact raised his lifetime record to 6-2-2-0. Final time for the nine furlongs over the fast track was a solid 1:49.07, making it the second fastest edition of the Illinois Derby in the 21st century, behind only Recapturetheglory in 2008.
A well intended son of Tiznow, Dynamic Impact finally got off a career losing streak last time, breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park in his fifth start. He beat a useful horse that day, and it represented a nice jump up from his first four races. Today, he took an even bigger step forward and became a graded stakes winner. He also may have punched his ticket for the Preakness Stakes, four weeks from today.