Indiana Derby 2018: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race

July 11, 2018 12:56pm
Indiana Derby 2018: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race
Photo: Coady Photography

A field of nine has assembled for the 24th running of the Indiana Derby, with the $500,000 race set for Saturday night Indiana Grand.

There’s no question King Zachary’s the one to beat, and favorites have won this 1 1/16-mile race three out of the last five years. A pair of California shippers, Blame the Rider and Axelrod, follow him on the morning line. Blame the Rider is trained by Doug O’Neill, who conditioned 2017 Indiana Derby winner Irap.

Here’s a look at the field with morning line odds:

1. Trigger Warning, 8-1 (Candy Ride — Mike Rone — 11: 4-0-2 — $157,778): At 86-1 last out in the Ohio Derby, he finished just a length behind Core Beliefs and Lone Sailor, who hit the wire in a photo finish. Before that, Trigger Warning won Presque Isle Downs’ Tom Ridge Stakes in his first start for Rone — this colt has had many trainers — and shows a work last Saturday for this spot. Can he duplicate the last out effort?

2. Blame the Rider, 6-1 (Jimmy Creed — Doug O’Neill — 8: 2-1-1 — $121,650): After winning a May 5 black type stakes on turf at a mile, he lost narrowly going nine furlongs June 16 on the grass. In the Indiana Derby, the Reddam Racing colt will meet those distances in the middle. But Blame the Rider’s last three efforts — the best of his career —  were all after a move away from the main track. In five dirt starts at various distances to open his career, the colt’s best finish was third. O’Neill’s taking a chance on the surface switch.

3. Givemeaminit, 20-1 (Star Guitar — Dallas Stewart — 11: 1-2-2 — $292.766): Stewart has always thought highly of the Louisiana-bred, placing him in Grade 1 spots such as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Finally, Givemeaminit dropped in class Jan. 28 and broke his maiden at Fair Grounds. He went straight back into the thick of things after that with four straight graded stakes starts. The chart from his last outing, in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, indicates a brush leaving the gate. Otherwise, the race set up perfectly for him, and the closer managed just sixth of 11. Getting another needed drop in class.

4. Dark Vader, 8-1 (Tale of Ekati — Peter Eurton — 8: 2-1-2 — $136,445): Eurton has already this summer shipped and won with a late developer when Core Beliefs took the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. This represents a similar situation. Before the Ohio Derby, Core Beliefs ran in New York. So too did Dark Vader, finishing third in the 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes day. The work pattern is consistent, and he brings to the Indiana Derby nice cruising speed. He’s always been well regarded in the barn but just needs to take that next step. Spotted well, he’s poised to win one at some point.

5. The Money Dance, 20-1 (Jimmy Creed — Michael Lauer — 10: 2-2-1 — $160,473): He’s a home favorite of sorts as an Indiana-bred contending in the state’s biggest race. That’s not likely enough to convince players he has a shot to win it. Two starts at Indiana Grand haven’t gone so well, as last out he was fourth of five in the Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes on June 20. He did break his maiden impressively by seven lengths back on April 14 on closing day at Oaklawn Park and backed that up with a win in New York. Could be a late developer, but the morning line price is right.

6. Axelrod, 5-1 (Warrior’s Reward — Mike McCarthy — 7: 2-1-1 — $70,925): This colt has switched between dirt and turf throughout his career, undoubtedly producing better results on the main track, where he’s won both his races. Axelrod is modestly bred, and Slam Dunk Racing nabbed him for just $25,000. He earned a chance to ship from the West Coast for the Indiana Derby by finishing second to Draft Pick in Santa Anita’s Grade 3 Affirmed on June 10. Third in that race was Solomini, the Bob Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby runner. He’ll add to the pace in this field. McCarthy’s shipper could get a piece.

7. Title Ready, 12-1 (More Than Ready — Steve Asmussen — 9: 2-2-1 — $198,850): He popped up on the 3-year-old radar back on Feb. 1 with a flashy 1 1/16-mile allowance win at Oaklawn Park against a quality field. The talent hasn’t yet translated to the stakes level, with his best finish a distant runner-up to Ax Man in Pimlico’s Sir Barton on Preakness Stakes day. The last-out effort in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby offers at least some excuse, as he ran close to a hot pace and held for fourth. He likes to sit near the front early and may benefit from modest fractions. Has the talent, but not the record to speak for it.

8. King Zachary, 6-5 (Curlin — Dale Romans — 6: 3-0-2 — $172,650): Romans has high hopes for this $550,000 purchase, and King Zachary will have every chance to validate them Saturday facing a field of the caliber he cruised against last time, winning Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Matt Winn by 4 3/4 lengths back on June 16. That marked the colt’s second consecutive victory following a quick rise — straight from his maiden win — to the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. In New York, a less experienced King Zachary ran into trouble and, as his connections admit, lost interest. He’s on the improved since then and could cement himself as a Travers Stakes contender with a nice Indiana Derby performance. The one to beat runs from just off the pace.

9. Funny Duck, 10-1 (Distorted Humor — Rusty Arnold — 8: 2-2-2 — $218,990): This Calumet Farm charge switched from turf to roll in the slop on Kentucky Derby day, topping a quality field in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile. But there was nothing to indicate good dirt form before that, and he won it at 39-1. Funny Duck was fourth throughout in a field of six next out in the Matt Winn, which likely served as a better barometer of where he fits on the main track. Still, many runners on that humid night at Churchill Downs put in uncharacteristically poor efforts, so he could be one to watch. Inconsistent sort should offer a good price.

King Zachary will take a lot of money, and rightfully so. But if trying to beat him, consider that on Stephen Foster Handicap night at Churchill Downs, we saw some nice horses run poorly due to extreme heat and humidity. Maybe King Zachary didn’t see the best of Ax Man or Combatant, a Kentucky Derby runner, not to mention Indiana Derby rival Funny Duck. Title Ready is worth playing given his early speed, while Dark Vader appears another serious competitor. Axelrod’s certainly one to watch as well.


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