Head to Head: 2 picks against favorite in Ohio Derby

Head to Head: 2 picks against favorite in Ohio Derby
Photo: Oaklawn Park

The Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown drew a full field of 11 3-year-old colts and geldings who will contest 1 1/18-miles. Some are up-and-comers, while others take the first step on the summer campaign trail after a brief vacation. With the new restrictions on Lasix in regards to the Triple Crown and its preps, many in the field will be racing with Lasix for the first time, adding an interesting dimension to the race.

 Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the ones to keep and the ones to toss.  




Promise Keeper has shown that he likes to be close to the lead, if not on it. In the two starts where he wasn’t up close, he finished off the board. As long as he gets the trip he wants, he will be dangerous.

Promise Keeper is living up to his name with three wins from five-lifetime starts. Constitution’s son has tactical speed, improving speed figures and the combo of Pletcher/Saez. What’s not to like?



Falcons Fury has been in good form this year, going 4: 1-3-0 so far. That success has come in lesser company, however. This is a pretty big step up in class, and this race has arguably attracted some of the crop’s top talent. Pass.

This former claimer earned a pair of runner-up placings for his new barn in allowance class races. He has tactical speed, and trainer Tim Maxey is a 20% trainer. That being said, Falcons Fury’s speed figures are low, his pedigree leans towards sprinter/miler speed, and he’s taking a huge class jump. Pass.



So far, Hozier has turned out to at least be a paycheck earner. He was second to stablemate Concert Tour in the Rebel (G2) and most recently second in the Sir Barton. In the wake of the Medina Spirit controversy, Hozier was moved to Rodolphe Brisset’s barn, making this race his first start for Brisset. I do not see Hozier winning this, but he has the class to hit the board.

Hozier hasn’t lived up to his $625,000 price tag. His only sub-par race was a weak edition of the Arkansas Derby (G1), where he was soundly beaten by 19 lengths. He returned with a gutsy performance in the Sir Barton but was out gamed by The King. Hozier switched to trainer Rudy Brisset, but the barn is 1 for 27 with new horses making their first start. However, Hozier does have tactical speed, so perhaps a minor placing is possible. 



King Fury returned with a vengeance in the Lexington (G3) after a 4 ½-month layoff. Last year, the colt’s success came in lesser races; he won his debut race and the listed Street Sense Stakes, but he was soundly beaten in graded stakes company. That pattern has obviously been broken. King Fury will start with first time Lasix in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, something that is not a significant angle for trainer Kenny McPeek. Certainly one to include on your tickets.

King Fury surprised the Lexington (G3) field with a 2 3/4-length victory. Unfortunately, he came down with a fever and missed a start in the Kentucky Derby. Nevertheless, this looks like a good place for the son of Curlin and Grade 1 winner Taris to start his summer campaign. King Fury has tactical speed, and if he replicates his Lexington form, he’ll be dangerous. However, one thing that concerns me is the win/lose cycle he had last year.



Ethical Judgement, a son of Honor Code, has not finished out of the exacta in four career starts. It is interesting to note that he debuted on the turf, where he was second by just a head. His next three career starts were slated to also be on the lawn; however, all three came off the turf. Those four races were all at Churchill Downs or Keeneland, which traditionally attract some of the best horses. I think this is a good place for this colt to test deeper waters and believe he stands a good chance of picking up a check.

The lightly raced Ethical Judgement is an intriguing prospect. He’s done well against allowance types, so it’s time to show how good he is. Both of his half-sisters own blacktype, and one, Best Performance, placed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), the Schuylerville (G3), and three other stakes. Brendan Walsh gave Ethical Judgement a pre-race bullet 5-furlong breeze, and it looks like all systems are go.



Hello Hot Rod is another that will get Lasix for the first time in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. The son of Mosler has never been out of the exacta in races a mile or shorter. He tried 1 1/8-mile for the first time last out in the Federico Tesio and finished a respectable fourth. As Laurie points out, he did have to alter course a few times in the stretch, but it’s possible the distance was a bit much. The big drawback for me here is that Hello Hot Rod has switched barns again. He was with Brittany Russell for his first four starts, was moved to Shawn Davis for the Federico Tesio, and is now in the care of Caio Caramori. That is quite a bit of shuffling around recently. I don’t think this colt can win, but I would use him underneath in exotic bets.

After three straight victories, as a sprinter/miler for Brittney Russell, Hello Hot Rod switched to the care of Caio Caramori and stretched to 1 1/8-miles in the Federico Tesio Stakes. It was a reasonable effort for Hello Hot Rod’s first try around two turns. He got a rail trip most of the way but had to change course three times in the stretch. However, he never stopped trying and was just beaten for third place by a half-length. Hello Hot Rod physically resembles his sire Mosler, and his half-sister is a multiple stakes winning sprinter. Hello Hot Rod gets first-time Lasix, but  Caramori is 0-6 with this angle and is 0 for 13 with horses making their first start off a layoff. If it weren’t for the poor trainer stats, I’d give Hello Hot Rod a chance to hit the board.



The Reds took a hot minute to break his maiden, finally getting his picture taken in start number five. Since then he has run fifth in the Gotham (G3) and second in the Federico Tesio and Pennine Ridge (G3). He was named the winner of the Federico Tesio, however, when Excellorator was disqualified for interference. Use The Reds underneath.

The Reds is one of those horses who is always right there but never wins. He refused to pass in the Federico Tesio and the Pennine Ridge Stakes despite every chance to do so. Granted, he was five-wide over a sloppy track in the Pennine Ridge and even had the lead at one point. However, the John Kimmel trainee backs down from a head-to-head challenge. He fits from a class standpoint, so he’s worth an underneath look.



Give credit where credit is due. Keepmeinmind, winner of last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) has danced nearly every dance, racing exclusively in graded stakes, even breaking his maiden in the Kentucky JC. His come from behind running style is his biggest hurdle. For the Ohio Derby, the son of the late Laoban gets first time Lasix and the blinkers will go back on. Those are huge angles for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Add that to the class relief, and Keepmeinmind should be kept in mind.

Keepmeinmind finally gets a little bit of class relief after being beaten like an old rug in every start this year. Robertino Diodoro adds Lasix, and puts the blinkers back on, hoping for improvement. Keepmeinmind has been breezing very well at Belmont and surprised with a good fourth-place finish in the Preakness. Diodoro is 30% with the first time Lasix angle and 34% with the blinkers on the angle. Hmmm…



Proxy was prominent down in the bayous of Louisiana on the Fair Grounds Road to the Kentucky Derby. He notched runner-up finishes in both the Lecomte (G3) and the Risen Star (G2) before finishing a troubled fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Michael Stidham decided to skip the Triple Crown after Proxy finished fourth in the Lexington (G3) as well. The blinkers will come off for the Ohio Derby. If Proxy can get up on the lead, he will be dangerous. Interesting to note, not only are his two career wins in races where he had an uncontested lead, those races were also the only ones in which he raced with Lasix. Food for thought as he once again gets Lasix for this race.

Proxy went off form after a tough trip in the Louisiana Derby. Michael Stidham gave the colt some time off, and Proxy should benefit. Blinkers come off, and Bravo jumps on, hints that Stidham is returning to a pacesetting style. Proxy’s only victories were on an uncontested lead. He likely won’t get that here, but you never know.



Masqueparade is an interesting one. He was awarded the victory in career start number four after the winner was disqualified. The son of Upstart turned around and demolished an allowance field in his next start. He owns the best speed figures in the field, but the question is can he handle established graded stakes runners? Certainly one to use on your tickets.

How impressive was Masqueparade’s victory when he stretched to 1 1/8-miles? How about beating the pricy, well-regarded Ghazaaly by 11 lengths in 1:48.35, getting his final furlong in 11.96? How about a 102 Brisnet speed figure and a 106 late-pace figure? That’s better than many Kentucky Derby preps. Al Stall, Jr. gave Upstart’s son time off after that tremendous effort. Very live longshot, if he can rate.



Channel Fury has never been out of the trifecta in his career, but I think that will change after the Ohio Derby. This colt has raced exclusively at lower tier tracks and appears to be a sprinter. His lone start at a mile resulted in him finishing second after having an open length lead in the stretch. He is now being asked to go an extra furlong. Pass.

Channel Fury has been bullying lesser horses at the local level and is ready to try his luck against the big boys. In his favor is familiarity with the track, decent speed figures, and tactical speed. The negatives are stretching out and a big class jump. Note that he blew a five-length lead in his sole try at a mile. Think I’ll change the channel.


Final Thoughts

Ashley: Keepmeinmind just may get a pace scenario that works in his favor. Promise Keeper has speed from the rail. Ethical Judgement, Hello Hot Rod, and Channel Fury all like to be on the lead. The signs seem to indicate that Proxy could return to his front-running ways. Several in here are getting class relief and/or first time Lasix. Masqueparade is an interesting new shooter that should not be ignored. This is a competitive field, but I think Keepmeinmind just may mow ‘em all down in the stretch.


Laurie:  The majority of the last ten Ohio Derby winners sat two lengths or farther back. Only one pacesetter was successful. All the favorites finished in the money. Five of the ten winners broke from post one or two.

Keepmeinmind gets class relief, and four Preakness also rans won the Ohio Derby next time out. I like the positive signs including his breeze pattern. Promise Keeper breaks from the rail has tactical speed and excellent speed figures. King Fury is stretching out, but he has the right running style, gets first-time Lasix, can win off the layoff, and could be poised for a career-best effort. The Reds is talented but has second-itis.












#4 KING FURY (9-2)

#9 PROXY (5-1)

#7 THE REDS (6-1)


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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