Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Ohio Derby

Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Ohio Derby

The 2020 Ohio Derby is now a prep race for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.  The Grade 3 event is the highlight of Saturday’s card at Thistledown. An over-subscribed field of 15 3-year-old colts and geldings will contest 1 1/16-miles. With the potential for thunderstorms, we could see a wet track, so keep that in mind, bettors.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast weed through the contenders from the pretenders.




Dean Martini is one for nine lifetime but has hit the board in eight start. In his first off the claim, he ran a credible second in the stretch out to nine furlongs. The Tom Amoss trainee had a four-wide trip the entire way. Despite this, he was moving powerfully at the end. In deep stretch, while Dean Martini was focused on putting away the horse to his inside, he was caught late on the far outside. Out of seven rivals who have been tested at nine furlongs, Dean Martini and Unrighteous are the only ones who hit the board. Exotics.

As Laurie pointed out, Dean Martini consistently hits the board though he has just one win. His last two races were quite good based on his Equibase speed figures, which puts him near the top of the field. I do not anticipate a win, but he should get a good, inside trip on the lead and hang around for the exotics late.


Rogue Element is an Also Entered. The Dale Romans trainee was totally out of his element in the Florida Derby, hiding 51-lengths behind Tiz the Law. The son of Honor Code evidently didn’t get over his embarrassment next time out and was ridiculed by 20 lengths by a maiden field. Established finished second in that race. Pass.

Personally I’m beginning to associate Calumet Farm with ridiculous longshots, and Rogue Element is no exception. His last two races were atrocious, and I would not be surprised to see him go off at triple digit odds again. Pass.


The good thing about Rowdy Yates is that he keeps rollin', rollin', rollin'. He can successfully make his move from any position and has been out of the money only three of nine lifetime. The drawback is that his pedigree is borderline for 1 1/8-miles. Offspring of Morning Line are 2 for 11 at 1 1/8-miles, and his pedigree is iffy for mud. Rowdy Yates is his sire’s leading money earner and is out-performing his pedigree. Good horses find a way to win. Exotics contender.

Rowdy Yates is a multiple stakes winner and ran a credible fourth in the Saudi Derby Cup in his last outing. In any other Derby prep race and/or location, I probably would not give this colt a second look, but he certainly seems to be a good fit here. Exotics contender for sure.


Lebda is Laurel Park’s big horse in a small pond, putting his two-race win streak on the line. He’s been out of the money only once, in the Nashua (G3).  By the well-bred Raison d'Etat out of a stakes-winning sprinter, Lebda’s pedigree is borderline for 1 1/8-miles. However, his sire has a good 17% winners from starters on mud, and his dam won four of seven starts over the surface. In order for Lebda to win, he must have the lead in the stretch. Otherwise, he loses ground instead of gaining. Exotics.

Laurie, I think we can put a line through the Nashua (G3) as Lebda was further back in the early stages than he would have liked to be. Otherwise, as you pointed out, he is as consistent as a person could ask for. This is another that absolutely should be used on tickets.


Surface alert! With a 90% chance of rain, the track could be good/sloppy. That would suit Dack Janiel’s just fine. He’s hit the board in two of three starts over an off track. By Tonalist out of a daughter of Smart Strike, this Jack Sisterson trainee is bred to go long and has an outstanding mud pedigree. Tonalist gets 22% mud winners from starters. The main drawback is that Dack Janiel’s does his best work on or near the lead, like half of the field. Exotics.


You mean to tell me that there’s a Calumet runner with a shot to win or hit the board??? I really want to shout “balderdash,” but like Laurie said, the potentially wet surface swings the odds in this colt’s favor. I’d suggest that someone in his camp do a rain dance and pray that it does not get too crazy up front. Exotics.


A change in running style earned Sprawl his second-lifetime victory in his last race. Formerly, the colt was hating life as a one-run closer left with too much to do in the stretch. A jock switch to Paco Lopez should ensure that the Mott trainee stays within striking distance. Sprawl has a classy pedigree, as he is by City Zip out of a daughter of Awesome Again, who happens to be a half-sister to graded winner and sire Congrats. Sprawl has the best mud pedigree in the field. Note that his only victories were when he stretched to 1 1/16-miles. He should love the extra distance. Win Contender.


Laurie, I could not have summed up Sprawl better myself. Additionally, he has one of the best speed figures in the field. Those 15-1 morning line odds are looking like an overlay. Use on top as well as underneath.


Informative is one for eleven and has hit the board three times. Pass.


This son of Bodemeister has faced some tough competition and gets some class relief here. His Equibase speed figures are in the top half of the field, and if the pace gets hot, he could mow down rivals in the stretch to grab a piece. Consider playing underneath.


The $525,000 Keeneland yearling has the pedigree to run all day. Bear Alley is a half-brother to Grade 1 turf router Arklow and Grade 3 turf miler Maraud. Unfortunately, front-running Bear Alley folds like a bad poker hand in the stretch every time. Pass.


He may not win, but Bear Alley certainly has had a case of seconditis in his last three outings. With all the other on the pace types, it certainly does not look good for Bear Alley to get that elusive first win. Pass.


Code Runner is bred to handle 1 1/8-miles. He settles mid-pack and makes his run in the stretch, usually resulting in a check. However, his two forays into stakes company resulted in double-digit beatings, including one at the hooves of Rowdy Yates. Pass.


The third Calumet runner in the field, Code Runner stands the best chance according to the oddsmaker. I really think those 6-1 odds are way too generous, though he did get a confidence boosting win last out. His dam Nereid was a grade one winner on turf, and I would love to see Asmussen try him on that surface. I think I have to pass.


South Bend yearns for the early days as a 2-year-old, when he was undefeated in his first three starts on dirt. He’s done ok in stakes company on turf but is making his seventh start of the year. The Stanley Hough trainee has gone off form in his last two races, and hopes for a better result from the surface switch and taking the blinkers off. Seven of Hough’s nine runners in making this move have hit the board. Exotics.


Last year’s Street Sense winner has run nearly exclusively on turf in 2020 but switches back to dirt for the Ohio Derby. Maybe the switch up in surface and equipment will improve South Bend’s finish here after two disappointing efforts leading into this. If the pace gets hot, even better for this colt. Exotics.


The lightly raced Soros hasn’t lived up to last year’s promise. He’s been out of it by a combined 14 1/4-lengths. Pass.


I was prepared to like Soros based off his Smooth Air performance, but unfortunately, this son of Commissioner took a couple steps backwards over the winter. Pass.


Established is getting a late start on the Derby trail. Yes, he’s still a maiden, but both starts resulted in second-place finishes. In his previous start, Established fought on the lead the entire way, battling on the inside through the stretch. He missed the victory by only a half-length. The son of leading second-crop sire Constitution is a half-brother to Spinaway (G1) heroine Sweet Loretta, and their dam is a half-sister to Canadian Champion 2-year-old filly Spring In The Air. Conservative trainer Michael Stidham isn’t known for tossing maidens into the deep end unless he thinks they have a legitimate shot.  Exotics Contender.


Out of the two colts Established has lost to in his two career starts, one has not raced again while the other followed up their maiden win by finishing eleventh and last in allowance company. That being said, this $400,000 yearling purchase put up a big number in his last outing. I’m not a hundred percent sure what to do with him, however. Maybe.


Storm the Court is the only Grade 1 winner and multiple graded placed runner in the field. That earns him the favorite status. He defeated one of the weakest Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fields in history. His Brisnet speed figures have dropped in every race this year. His pedigree is borderline/poor for 1 1/8-miles. Court Vision gets 10% winners from starters over an off track. Storm the Court will be forwardly placed and get a wide trip. Pass.

Talk about a conundrum. Storm the Court is clearly the so-called class of the field based on his past performances, but his trio of races this year have not ended in positive results. Part of me feels like you have to include him on your tickets, but I would certainly warn against singling him on top or in multi-race wagers.


When was the last time you saw a Todd Pletcher trainee at 20-1 in a stakes? Pletcher has a 24% win rate and 57% in the money with last out maidens stepping up in stakes. That being said, the son of Violence has an iffy pedigree for the distance and is stuck in an outside post. Pass.

Two words, Laurie: Calumet and Farm. I know, I know. I seem to have a terrible bias against the esteemed farms recent runners, but really, who can blame me? A speed oriented run style and a far outside draw cannot have me passing fast enough.


Celtic Striker is a need-the-lead type. In every start where he’s met a quality field, Celtic Striker gets as far away as possible…in the wrong direction. Pass.

Now that I’ve stopped laughing at what Laurie said…I have to agree. Celtic Striker does go in the wrong direction in stakes company, though I do think he stands a better chance here after facing some of the top runners in the division in his last two starts. I’m not opposed to including this one underneath.

Final Thoughts

Laurie: With no overwhelming favorite, the Ohio Derby is a good betting race. Several could jump up to win, so why settle for favorites?  Maybe Storm the Court is getting the class drop he needs, but I don’t like his outside post and iffy pedigree for surface (mud) and distance. Same goes for Rowdy Yates, although he can save ground and always tries hard. Ditto for Lebda. So, I went in search of runners for whom I can make a case. I don’t pay much attention to odds, anyway.  

Ashley: Bring out your dart board because this really could be anyone’s race. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court is the favorite by default, which should tell you a good bit about this field. As Laurie pointed out, the odds really do not reflect the runners very well.




#5 Dack Janiels (15-1)

#6 Sprawl (15-1)

#6 Sprawl (15-1)

#12 Established (30-1)

#1 Dean Martini (20-1)

#5 Dack Janiels (15-1)

#4 Lebda (7-2)

#1 Dean Martini (20-1) 

Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing s stars, equine and human alike.

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