Eight will go to the post in the nine-furlong Ohio Derby, which is the ninth race on Thistledown’s 10-race program. The Ohio Derby is the centerpiece of Thistledown’s 122-day season.
Smooth Air is 3-2-2 from eight career starts, including a one-length victory in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) Jan. 5 on the slop at Gulfstream Park. The son of Smooth Jazz was also runner-up to Big Brown in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I). Most recently, the bay colt was 11th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3.
“He's ready to run his race," said trainer Bennie Stutts, Jr., who worked Smooth Air seven-eighths of mile at Arlington Park in 1:24.80 May 25 before shipping to Thistledown two days later. "He'll gallop up to the Ohio Derby. What more do I have to do with him after that good workout?"
Regular rider Manoel Cruz will get the mount on Smooth Air, who is out of the French Deputy mare Air France.
Stiff competition could come from Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune, who also is coming off a disappointing performance in the Kentucky Derby, when he finished 10th. But the son of Siphon is talented, as evidenced by his 2 3/4-length score in the Jan. 12 LeComte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, and his runner-up efforts in both the Risen Star (gr. III) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II).
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Z Fortune turned in a four-furlong breeze May 26 at Churchill Downs, stopping the clock in :50.40. It was his third work since the Derby. Garrett Gomez will ride the New York-bred colt, who is 3-2-0 from seven starts and is the 5-2 second choice.
Equine Prep Management’s Medjool will make his first start on dirt and will also look to rebound from a disappointing eighth-place effort in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. The son of Monarchos actually has only a maiden win to show from eight starts, but was third in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. III) March 22 at Turfway Park. David Hoffmans trains the 7-2 third choice. Jose Caraballo will ride for the first time.
Entering the Ohio Derby off victories are Instill, Stolen Chevy ,and Cherokee Artist. Sharon Morgan’s Instill won by a neck in the restricted 1 1/16-mile Milwaukee Handicap April 26 at Hawthorne; E. McCarroll Holdings’ Stolen Chevy has now won three in a row after his 1 1/2-length allowance score May 6 at Mountaineer; and J. M. Robinson’s Cherokee Artist broke his maiden less than a month ago at Churchill while going 8 1/2 furlongs.
$300,000 Ohio Derby (gr. II, Race 9, 5:27 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Smooth Air (FL), 117, Manoel Cruz
2. Medjool (KY), 115, Jose Caraballo
3. Your Round (KY), 115, Miguel Mena
4. Instill (IL), 117, Danush Sukie
5. Stolen Chevy (KY), 115, Rex A. Stokes III
6. Celtic Meal (FL), 115, Andrew Ramgeet
7. Z Fortune (NY), 117, Garrett Gomez
8. Cherokee Artist (KY), 115, Jeremy Rose