In what has to be the most wide-open race of the 3-year-old season, 11 horses from all across the country converge on Hawthorne Race Course for Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II).
Under the allowance conditions, likely favorite, Pollard's Vision, third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), gets in the nine-furlong race with a feathery 114 pounds, and will be getting 10 pounds from highweight, Kilgowan, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (gr. II).
Pollard's Vision has shipped in from Florida, along with Suave and Farnum Alley, while Kilgowan joins O.K. Mikie and Skipaslew as the representives from Northern California. The unbeaten Song of the Sword has shipped in from New York, Pure American from Arkansas, and White Mountain Boy from Maryland.
Kilgowan, who drew post 1, won the El Camino Real in a four-horse blanket finish, in which O.K. Mikie, winner of the Golden State Mile, was fourth, beaten a half-length. Both horses carried 116 in that race, which means that half-length margin resulted in an eight-pound weight shift in O.K. Mikie's favor. Golden Gate Derby (gr. III) and Gold Rush Stakes winner, Skipaslew, who ran a disappointing seventh in the El Camino Real, will carry 118 and break from post 3, while O.K. Mikie drew post 9.
Pollard's Vision, one of four potential Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contenders trained by Todd Pletcher, ran a big race at Fair Grounds, tracking a blistering pace, then hanging on gamely to finish third behind the late-closing Wimbledon and Borrego. The son of Carson City
will break from post 2 with Eibar Coa in the saddle.
Drawing the far outside is the unlucky White Mountain Boy, who also was compromised by the outside post in his third-place finish in the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park. It was his first career defeat after scoring three victories in Maryland-bred stakes at Laurel.
One horse who likely will get bet down is the Paul McGee-trained Suave. Although the son of A.P. Indy
has never run in a stakes in nine career outings, he is coming off an impressive allowance score at Gulfstream Park, in which he ran two-fifths of a second faster than the Florida Derby (gr. I) on the same card.
Although the colt hasn't shown consistency yet, McGee did attribute his fifth-place finish two races back to being stuck between horses and squeezed back. He feels his best race is racing up close and on the outside of horses.
Also coming in from Florida is the late-running Farnum Alley, who rallied from 17 lengths back in the Florida Derby to finish fifth, beaten only four lengths. The son of Distorted Humor
is trained by Kentucky horseman Tony Reinstedler. He drops eight pounds from the Florida Derby, getting in with 114. He breaks from post 10.
One horse who likely will be bet down, possibly to second choice, is the unbeaten Song of the Sword, who ships in from Jennifer Pedersen's barn at Aqueduct. The son of Unbridled's Song
is coming off a nose allowance victory in the fog over Sinister G, who came back to upset the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at 16-1. Song of the Sword will be ridden by the red-hot Richard Migliore, who piloted Friends Lake to a stunning upset score in the Florida Derby. Song of the Sword also gets in with 114 pounds, and will break from post 5.
Perhaps the biggest unknown is Oaklawn Park invader, Pure American, who is coming off a dazzling eighth-length allowance score, in which he came from nine lengths back to inhale his opponents with an explosive move around the far turn. Trained by Grant Forster and ridden by Greta Kuntzweiler, the son of Quiet American
will break from post 8 and likely will drop back off the pace. He recently worked a sharp five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Hawthorne.
The field for the $500,000 guaranteed, grade II Illinois Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles:
Horse, trainer, jockey, weight, ML Odds
1 -- Kilgowan, Lonnie Arterburn, Chance Rollins, 124, 12-1
2 -- Pollard's Vision, Todd Pletcher, Eibar Coa, 114, 4-1
3 -- Skipaslew, Doug O'Neill, Eric Saint-Martin, 118, 5-1
4 -- Suave, Paul McGee, Rafael Bejarano, 114, 6-1
5 -- Song of the Sword, Jennifer Pedersen, Richard Migliore, 114, 9-2
6 -- Chrome Soldier, Terrel Gore, Larry Sterling, 114, 30-1
7 -- Dancefortyniner, Eddie Cole, Carlos Montaivo, 114, 30-1
8 -- Pure American, Grant Forster, Greta Kuntzweiler, 114, 12-1
9 -- O.K. Mikie, Jerry McArthur, Kevin Radke, 116, 10-1
10 -- Farnum Alley, Tony Reinstedler, Eusebio Razo, 114, 6-1
11 -- White Mountain Boy, Phil Schoenthal, Abel Castellano Jr., 118, 8-1