There was no getting around the favorites in yesterdays features at Hawthorne. I could not find much of a way around Departing in the headliner and neither could the betting public. The lightly-raced War Front gelding was sent off at 19-10, bet down from his morning line odds of 7/2. Ground Transport was quickest from the Illinois Derby gate, but he would not have his way on the lead. Taken by the Storm disputed the pace early and prevailed after a half mile. He maintained a narrow lead after ¾, but after that it was all Departing, who said goodbye to the field in the stretch and drew off to a 3 ¼ length victory under Brian Hernandez, Jr.
Departing advanced throughout the race, as he was nine lengths back after a speedy 23.10 opening quarter. The pace slowed through the next half mile, which went in 24.61 and 25.32. Departing cut his lengths back to 4 ¼, then 2 ½ before leaving the field behind. He came home the final eighth in 12.63 to finish the nine furlongs in 1:50.78 despite a relatively wide trip. Departing is not certain for the latter legs of the Triple Crown at this point, but the solid gelding is now four for five lifetime. Hopefully racing fans will be able to enjoy Departing for a long time, Preakness or no Preakness.
Discounted by certain handicappers, lowest-priced (24-1) local longshot Fordubai ran a good race to take place honors. Close to the pace throughout, Fordubai struck second after three quarters and held off Siete de Oros by a neck to hold place. He shifted out in the stretch impeding Abraham, who called for an inquiry. The stewards left the finish as it was, however, and Siete de Oros kept his third-place finish to the disappointment of those who used him underneath their exactas. Siete de Oros raced wide near the back of the pack, but advanced steadily and ran his typically gritty race. While clearly a cut below the top three-year-olds, the A. P. Warrior gelding has only been outside of the superfecta once: his fifth place finish in his career debut. As with the winner, racing fans should look forward to many more solid efforts from Siete de Oros. I certainly will.
As for the rest of my picks, they were not much. Show Some Magic was going the wrong direction in the stretch after racing midpack. Narvaez got into it briefly but did not have the run to contend in the stretch either. I decided against using Dewey Square while at Hawthorne; he raced up close but suffered the same fate as the aforementioned.
Departing managed to get good position at the outset despite his wide post. He drifted out five-wide entering the clubhouse turn and stayed wide on the backstretch. That was where he started passing horses. A wide post and a wide trip are no problem when you have the best horse. Departing took a while to circle the field, but circle it he did, finally shifting inside in the stretch when he had dispatched all foes. While Fordubai was shifting about and Siete de Oros was pulling his head around in the stretch, Departing was all business. This was the fastest Illinois Derby since Musket Man's 2009 victory and I was quite impressed. Departing was marooned in the 13 hole, five-wide until the stretch and a commanding winner regardless. He lived up to his name and will surely be hear from again.
While Al Stall was coy about the path Departing will take, I would likely put Departing in my top five for the Kentucky Derby were he going there. While it is unfortunate that we will not get to see what may be one of the best three-year-olds on the first Saturday in May, we can hope that this casts the lack of qualifying points allotted to the Illinois Derby into a brighter light. It is highly unfortunate that a purely business decision is preventing the connections of a promising, 4-for-5 lifetime, graded-stakes-winning colt from choosing whether or not to run for the roses. As an Illinois racing fan, I will be rooting for Departing to come out near the top of this year's crop. It could be a hidden benefit down the road.
In the Sixty Sails, morning line second choice Disposablepleasure simply outclassed a field of five rivals to notch her fourth career victory in thirteen starts. Only her second career stakes win, Disposablepleasure found the going easier outside of Grade 1 and 2 racing. Sitting in third through the first three quarters, Disposablepleasure bided her time through splits of 23.89, 24.62, and 25.07 set by Devious Intent. Javier Castellano asked for run at the top of the stretch and shifted Disposablepleasure inside, where she established command and held a 3 1/2 length lead to the wire.
I liked the look of second choice and morning line favorite Brushed by a Star, who raced midpack as well behind the winner. She was no match for Disposablepleasure in the stretch, where the grey Giacomo filly showed why Todd Pletcher sent her to Chicago. My upset choice, Maude S, had a shot to come up the rail but did not have the requisite run to tangle with these. She came up empty and finished last.