While unable to deliver in his last two tries as the favorite, Pyro is sure to once again be the horse to beat when he goes to the post in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (gr. II) at Hoosier Park Oct. 4.
Pyro, third last time out in the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. I) as the 7-2 choice for trainer Steve Asmussen, is one of a dozen 3-year-olds entered for the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby. Owned by Ron Winchell, the Pulpit colt's credentials as the only graded stakes winner in the field clearly stands out over his rivals.
But he'll have to overcome his far outside post and a propensity for finding trouble in recent races -- as well as an undefeated rival and another who has won seven of eight starts.
In seven races during his 3-year-old campaign, Pyro has won three times -- the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds and the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs -- with one second (the grade II Jim Dandy) and one third in seven starts.
Only in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), when he failed to handle Keeneland's Polytrack, and in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) , when he was swallowed up on the inside and was never able to make a move, did he finish out of the money.
Pyro, with his late running style, has had problems getting a clear run. In the July 27 Jim Dandy, in which he was the 3-2 choice at Saratoga, he was pinched and in tight following the break and wound up beaten a half-length by Macho Again. He came back in the Travers, in which he was forced to steady at the quarter pole and finished more than five lengths behind Colonel John and Mambo in Seattle.
Shaun Bridgmohan, as always, will guide the dark bay.
Acai had a clear lead in the homestretch of the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 1 at odds of 9-1 only to be caught in the final strides, losing by a neck to Anak Nakal. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. will be out to make amends with this Florida-bred son of Three Wonders owned by IEAH Stables and partners. Tyler Baze takes over riding chores for the injured Corey Nakatani.
Power Game is undefeated in three starts for the Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey and gets a progress test here. The homebred Dixie Union colt won the off-the-turf Restoration Stakes at Monmouth Park while ridden out over two rivals last time out. His victories have come by a combined margin of 16 1/4 lengths. Jose Lezcano has the mount for the first time, replacing Elvis Trujillo.
The front-running Tin Cup Chalice won the Big Apple Triple over New York breds and a $250,000 bonus as he compiled a seven-race winning streak for trainer and part owner Mike Lecesse. He suffered his first loss Sept. 14 when facing open company in the Step Nicely at one mile at Belmont Park Sept. 14. The Crusader Sword gelding was defeated by a neck by Indiana Derby rival Famous Patriot in a determined effort. Before that, Tin Cup Chalice had won four consecutive stakes in 2008, all against state-bred foes.
Famous Patriot, a Florida-bred son of Repent , earned his first stakes win for trainer Timothy Hills.
Others in the Indiana Derby are Asmodeus, Budge Man, Chow Wagon, Chris Got Even, Cubfanbudman, He's Eze, and I.M. Boomer.
$500,000 Indiana Derby (gr. II, Race 9, 5:40 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Power Game (KY), 121, Jose Lezcano
2. Cubfanbudman (MN), 121, Derek C. Bell
3. He's Eze (FL), 115, Orlando Mojica
4. Tin Cup Chalice (NY), 124, Pedro A. Rodriguez
5. Budge Man (KY), 119, Rodney A. Prescott
6. Famous Patriot (FL), 121, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
7. Chris Got Even (KY), 115, Leandro R. Goncalves
8. Chow Wagon (IN), 115, Inosencio Diego
9. I. M. Boomer (KY), 115, Victor Lebron
10. Acai (FL), 124, Tyler Baze
11. Asmodeus (OH), 119, Luis J. Martinez, Jr.
12. Pyro (KY), 124, Shaun Bridgmohan