Zanjero, with Robby Albarado riding, angled off the rail in upper stretch to close four paths wide and relentlessly fought his way to the front approaching the eighth pole. He drew off late to complete the 1 1/16-mile journey in 1:43.95 while winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Bwana Bull, who has now finished behind Zanjero four times this year, came home second, a repeat of their 1-2 finish in the West Virginia Derby (gr. III) at Mountaineer two months ago. Pacesetter Flashstorm turned in a game effort to take third.
The 8-5 favorite enjoyed a ground-saving trip while racing last in the field of nine for the first half-mile. Zanjero edged closer to the leaders leaving the final turn while chasing Flashstorm through fractions of :23.81, :47.83 and 1:12.63, and made a big move in upper stretch. He drew alongside the upset-minded Squeaky Rich and Longley mid-stretch and steadily drew away. Bwana Bull rallied for second by 2 3/4 lengths without threatening the winner, while Flashtown fought to the wire to gain third by more than four lengths.
“I just had to be patient,” said Albarado after claiming his third win in the Indiana Derby. “He went through the inside on the turn so well. I was really just a passenger.”
Zanjero has had plenty of close finishes this year, including a third in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) by a head. Since his 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), things have seemingly turned around for the dark bay son of Cherokee Run. He returned to finish second -- beaten a neck by Chelokee -- in the June 16 Northern Dancer (gr. III) at Churchill, but followed that with a gutsy nose victory in the West Virginia Derby. In his previous start, Zanjero overcame a bad start and horrendous trip to finish up third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). With Asmussen's number one rider up this time, they left nothing to chance.
“If it wasn’t for Curlin, this would be the top horse in Steve’s barn,” said Albarado. “I have always liked this horse and glad to finally get the chance to ride him.”
Second choice Medici Code, winner of back-to-back grade II stakes on the Del Mar turf, was not a factor while making his first start on dirt since a sixth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in April. That was the American debut for the English-bred.
Zanjero won for just the second time in eight starts this year, but he has earned more than $1 million in 2007. His career mark stands at 4-3-4 in 13 starts. The winning purse in the Indiana Derby, worth $294,360, increased his earnings to $1,174,276, all but about $113,000 this season.
He paid $5.40, $3, and $2.80, topping a $15 exacta with Bwana Bull, who rebounded from a seventh-place finish to return $4.40 and $3.80 with Rafael Bejarano aboard. Flashstorm, ridden by Terry Thompson for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was $5.80 to show.
Squeaky Rich was followed by Medici Code, Longley, Stonehouse, Slew's Tizzy, and Sedgefield.