Thirty-two nominations are pretty good for a race that, up until six weeks ago, wasn’t even on the schedule.
Thistledown officials Sept. 23 said that’s the number of nominees for the grade II Ohio Derby Oct. 3. The purse is $150,000, down from $300,000 last year.
It appeared the Ohio Derby would be scrapped this year to conserve purse money, but the Ohio State Racing Commission in late August ordered it reinstated and five racing days cut from the Thistledown meet to pay for the race.
Nominees include Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, who was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year; Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray , winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) in his last start; and Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farms’ Kensei, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II).
A nominee with local connections is Elisabeth Alexander's Fundy, who won his last two starts on the way up the class ladder at Delaware Park.
The Ohio Derby will compete for horses with the Indiana Derby (gr. II), to be run the same day at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in neighboring Indiana. The purse for that event is $500,000.
The Ohio Derby will be one of nine races on the program. Five others will make up the Best of Ohio championship series for state-bred runners.
Among the 20 nominees for the $75,000 Best of Ohio Sprint is Team Valor Stables’ King of the Roxy, an Ohio-bred that won the grade II Hutcheson Stakes at 2. He was retired in 2008 only to return to racing this year and win the Don Bernhardt Memorial Stakes at Ellis Park and the restricted Honey Jay Stakes at Thistledown in his first two starts back.
As is usually the case, several horses are cross-nominated for the Best of Ohio races, which offer a total of $425,000 in purses. It’s the richest day of racing in Ohio this year.