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Indiana Derby Preview: Irap Looks for Two in a Row

JJ Zamaiko

Saturday’s Grade 3, $500,000 Indiana Derby features an 11-horse field of 3-year-olds looking to prove themselves before moving on to bigger and better things.

The 8-5 morning line favorite Irap enters having won two of his last three graded stakes tries and will attempt to make that three out of four.

Owned by J. Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC and trained by Doug O’Neill, Irap broke his maiden in April, pulling off a shocking 31-1 upset in the Grade 2, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. The win earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, but he struggled over the sloppy surface, eventually finishing 18th. He returned strong last time out, though, capturing the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby over the heavily-backed Girvin. Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who rode Irap in the Kentucky Derby, will be back aboard for the 23rd running of the Indiana Derby.

“We are really happy about his ground-saving post,” said O’Neill following the draw. “He’s doing really well.”

Irap arrived to Indiana Grand on July 9, allowing him time to get adjusted to his new surroundings. O’Neill also brought Mopotism to run in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks and will look to sweep both major stakes races on the card.

Top Choice

#2 Irap – A few months ago, I never thought I would be picking Irap to win the Indiana Derby… or any stakes race, for that matter. Last time out in the Ohio Derby, though, he actually looked very good while showing that he can sit off the pace and pounce at the perfect time. He beat a decent horse (Girvin) that race, and Girvin is better than what Irap will face here, so he has no excuse in this spot. If he runs back to that Ohio Derby effort, then he could win this one by multiple lengths. Maybe he’s the type of late bloomer that can run through the smaller midsummer Derbys like this one and get on a roll.

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#10 Colonelsdarktemper – His last two races caught my eye quite a bit and made me believe that he’s got a chance in this spot. After just a so-so start to his career, he’s been better lately, winning an allowance over Awesome Saturday (who he faces again here) before finishing second in the Grade 3 Matt Winn to McCraken. A horse like McCraken would be a strong favorite in this one, so the fact that Colonelsdarktemper finished second to him is what stands out. He’s a horse on the improve, which is what you look for this time of year.

#3 Wild Shot – Trying to figure this guy out is pretty tough. On Kentucky Derby weekend, he crushed the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, looking as though he’d put it all together, but last time out in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, he was back to running poorly. He’s been up and down all year long so it’s hard to know what to expect from him here. A mile might be his perfect distance, so the extra 1/16 of a mile could be a little bit too long for him. However, you have to put him in your multi-race wagers because, if he does run to full capability, then he can definitely win the race.

#8 Awesome Saturday – This good-looking horse has never finished out of the money in five career starts. His speed figures have also progressively gotten better with each race. If he can improve once again in this spot, then it will put him right in the mix. The only negative is the fact this will be his first race against stakes company. However, he beat one of this race’s entries (Watch Me Whip) by 3 lengths last time out, and two races back, he just narrowly lost to Colonelsdarktemper. He’s worth a shot here and in your exotics.

Exotic Plays

#9 Untrapped – As I always say when he runs: we know what he’s going to do. He has to be the most boring “good” horse that I’ve followed in years. There’s no doubt that he’s one you’d love to own (with almost $310k in earnings), but he’s also frustrating because he just can’t quite break through and pick up a big stakes win. That trend will continue here.

#1 Society Beau – He has just two wins in twelve lifetime starts, but he’s hit the board in ten of them. That tells you what he’s all about, and hitting the board is most likely his ceiling once again here. He finished third in the Grade 3 Matt Winn last time out but never really threatened to win. He’ll drop back and make one run at the end, but he’ll really need a fast pace setup to pass some of the horses that will be way ahead of him.

Party Crashers

#11 Watch Me Whip – He was a hyped horse after breaking his maiden but hasn’t lived up to it. However, sometimes these horses have a way of sneaking up on you. He could be capable of doing that kind of thing here, and bettors will finally get a solid price on him. He still needs to improve, but he might be worth a play from a value standpoint.

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Throw Outs

#5 Hollywood Handsome – The Belmont Stakes was a total disaster for him. He clipped another horse’s heels entering the first turn and made his jockey lose his irons, then he was eventually pulled up and vanned off. This horse has a little bit of talent, but that is a lot to overcome for this race.

#6 Han Sense – He returned from running in Dubai last time out to finish second in an Iowa-bred stakes race at Prairie Meadows. This will be a very tough spot for him.

#4 Brockton Ridge – We haven’t seen this horse since November of last year, so this is obviously a tough return spot off of that layoff. As a 2-year-old, he had a nice maiden special weight win, but it came over the grass. He’s hard to support here, but he’s not without a chance.

#7 Top Credentials – A winner of just one race in nine lifetime starts, his lone victory came at Mahoning Valley in a maiden special weight. Since breaking his maiden, he’s finished sixth, third, and third in allowance races at smaller tracks. He’ll be far behind his 30-1 morning line come post time.

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