Fifteen minutes before Todd Pletcher's Derby favorite Uncle Mo was defeated in the Wood Memorial, Pletcher was celebrating 5-1 Joe Vann's victory in the Grade 3 $300,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. The 2-1 favorite, Watch Me Go, whose claim to fame was beating Brethren in the Tampa Bay Derby, failed to do much and ended up sixth in the field of twelve. The other name in the field, The Fed Eased, finished third. Joe Vann took six tries to break his maiden and has now won three in a row, this being his first stakes attempt. He is not nominated to the Triple Crown nor does he have the graded stakes to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby if he were nominated.
Completing the field behind Joe Vann was Zoebear, The Fed Eased, Sour, El Grayling, Watch Me Go, Roman Flame, Lagoon of Diamonds, Vouch For Victory, Smarter Than Ever, Southern Sculptor, and Future Empire.
Bob Baffert went into the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Santa Anita Derby with two entries--favored Jaycito and recent maiden winner Midnight Interlude. A bruised foot forced Baffert to scratch Jaycito. He'll now be pointed toward a final Kentucky Derby prep in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23rd. That left Midnight Interlude. He had been training well and was bet down from a morning line of 20-1 to 13-1 by post time, but this race was a big jump from his previous race--a $54,000 maiden. He sat mid-pack through much of the race and then closed strongly to overpower the front-running Comma To The Top.
The War Chant colt raced his first race at the end of January and now has two wins out of four starts. With this win, Midnight Interlude takes home a graded stakes purse of $600,000 which puts him within the top ten on the Kentucky Derby graded earnings list. Completing the field behind Midnight Interlude was Comma To The Top, Mr. Commons, Silver Medallion, Anthony's Cross, Indian Winter, Bench Points, Quail Hill, and Offlee Wild Boys.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby