Triple Crown contenders until faltering in their final preps, Caleb’s Posse and Wilkinson top the 1 1/16-mile Ohio Derby, the state’s richest race and only graded event. Post time is set for 5:50 p.m. EDT.
McNeill Stables and Cheyenne Stables’ Caleb's Posse broke poorly and never recovered when finishing 12th in the April 16 Arkansas Derby (gr. I). The son of Posse won the Smarty Jones Stakes and finished runner-up in the Rebel (gr. II) earlier in the season at Oaklawn Park.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel was on the fence as to whether to run Caleb’s Posse in the Ohio Derby, but he has posted three strong works since the Arkansas Derby—all at Arlington Park.
“It's a good race with a lot of tradition, and we think he'll be competitive there,” said Von Hemel. “We think the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance is good for him and the timing sets him up for the Iowa Derby three weeks later. We're optimistic and looking to have some fun.”
Caleb's Posse, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will arrive at Thistledown from Arlington on Thursday evening. Regular rider Eusebio Razo Jr. has the mount and they will break from the rail.
Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson (4-1) scored his lone stakes win in the LeComte (gr. III) Jan. 22 at Fair Grounds. He disappointed when finishing sixth in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and 10th in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in his next two tries, but rebounded to post a 1 1/2-length allowance victory at Churchill Downs on May 20.
Wilkinson, trained by Neil Howard, is 3-2-1 from eight starts in his career. The son of Lemon Drop Kid will break from post 8 under Brian Hernandez Jr.
Other starters that look to have solid chances are recent Churchill winners Goodtimehadbyall and Le Mans. Trained and co-owned by Merrill Scherer, Goodtimehadbyall has already made 16 starts in his career, winning three times and finishing runner-up four others. He won a seven-furlong optional claimer at Churchill May 7 on Kentucky Derby Day, but could not recover from a bad start 11 days later when sixth in the Tom Ridge Stakes on the Presque isle Downs Tapeta.
The Quiet American gelding has raced short and long and on turf, all-weather, and dirt, but Scherer plans to settle him into a two-turn dirt career going forward.
“I think I've been too ambitious with him and put him in the wrong spots—two turns, one turn, short, long—and he hasn't known what he's supposed to do," said Scherer. “We'll keep him at two turns on the dirt and establish some consistency for him. He ran good against some good horses (at Fair Grounds and Churchill). He acts like the mile-and-a-sixteenth is as far as he'll want to go, but the short stretch at Thistledown will probably be an asset. He likes to make a big run.”
Francisco Torres will ride Goodtimehadbyall (12-1). The gelding is owned by Scherer, Dan Lynch, and Ken Sentel.
Padua Stables’ Le Mans (6-1) was also in the Louisiana Derby, finishing 10th while still a maiden. That spot was probably a little too ambitious, but trainer Steve Asmussen moved him back into maiden special ranks May 21 and he responded with a 5 1/4-length romp in his fourth career start. Le Mans, by War Front, raced on the front end in that one-mile event and will likely be near the lead in the Ohio Derby under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Also in the field is El Grayling, who was eased in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and was fifth in the Illinois Derby (gr. III); Marco's Fling, a seven-length maiden winner at Thistledown last fall; and Global Power, a maiden winner at Belmont last out.
$100,000 Ohio Derby (gr. III, Race 8, 5:50 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight 1. Caleb's Posse, Von Hemel, D Razo, Jr., E 120
2. Valient Tenobob, Jackson, L Bernal, O 116
3. El Grayling, Maker, M Lebron, V 116
4. Le Mans, Asmussen, S Emigh, C 116
5. Picaroo, Sullivan, E Rosario, Jr., H 116
6. Marco's Fling, Vernino, R Munaylla, F 116
7. Irish Lion, Bennett, G Allen, Jr., R 116
8. Wilkinson, Howard, N Hernandez, Jr., B 124
9. Goodtimehadbyall, Scherer, M Torres, F 116
10. Global Power, Brown, C Sanchez, J 116