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American Lion Roars in Illinois Derby

WinStar Farm, LLC’s American Lion made every stride a winning one in Saturday’s Grade 3 Illinois Derby, Presented by TVG. This storied race, the 53rd edition, carried a purse of $500,000.


American Lion, trained by Eoin Harty, broke from the inside post, seized immediate control and was able to hold favored Yawanna Twist safe despite repeated challenges.


“He bobbled a little bit at the start”, said rider David Flores, “but he got his feet right back under him and went right to the lead. He started looking around but I was pretty confident. I thought they would push him a little bit early but, like I said, he was just looking around a little bit and he responded when they came to him. That was a good feeling knowing that when they came to him he still had something left in the tank.


Favored Yawanna Twist, who finished second, two and three-quarter lengths back, tracked the pace during the entire race and tried valiantly to get past once they turned for home but American Lion dug in gamely and prevailed.


Edgar Prado, second on beaten favorite Yawanna Twist: "We broke good, and I tried to go to the lead. He was sitting very happy. The other horse just had a little more. He's inexperienced with only three starts." 


It was another eleven and one-quarter lengths back to Backtalk, the third-place finisher.


Backtalk’s rider, Miguel Mena, wished the race had been a bit faster. "No problems at all, it was just a slow pace. I wish they would have gone a little faster than that, 49 and change for the Derby is pretty slow."

They covered the nine furlong distance in 1:51.31 after fractions of :24.89, :49.32, 1:13.22 and 1:38.24.


For the victory, American Lion earned $291,000 and boosted his career earnings to $413,600.

American Lion returned $8.60, $3.80, and $2.80 as the 3-1 second choice.  Yawanna Twist returned $2.80 and $2.20 as the 6-5 favorite and Backtalk returned $3.00 to show.


Asked about the prospects of American Lion going to the Kentucky Derby, both rider David Flores and trainer Eoin Harty were confident.


“He did it today,” said Flores. “Hopefully we go for the big one next time.  The roses are the best thing to end up with. That’s my goal. Hopefully he’ll stay in good shape. Eoin knows what he’s doing. I’m just a lucky guy being here and riding this horse.”


Harty was even more passionate. "There is only one Derby and we plan on being there.  I think we needed to get a race over the dirt and fortunately he responded well to it.  We got in here Wednesday and were able to school, which helped.  These are different surroundings and a different paddock.  When we schooled, he was a bit active, but today he was very professional.  When he wore the blinkers, he was a bit rank and we took them off and he responded well.  When the other horse (Yawanna Twist) ran up next to him in the lane, I wasn't sure how he was going to respond, but he did everything right and had something left.  I have had three Kentucky Derby horses, all Tiznow runners and this is another one that looks to be headed in the right direction."


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Thank you American Lion. My Derby Future wager lives!

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