Gun Salute Big Favorite in Hawthorne Derby

Trainer Billy Mott's Gun Salute makes his return to the track in Saturday's running of the $150,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) as he looks for his third stakes victory of the year and his first since winning the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in August. No wonder he's the 3-5 morningline favorite. The Derby, to be run at 1 1/8 miles, has drawn a field of five.

Gun Salute, after a sixth-place finish in the Palm Beach (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream, won the Forerunner Stakes on grass April 21 at Keeneland. Given about two months off, he ran in the Jefferson Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill June 18 and finished third, beaten a half-length as the 8-5 favorite. Shipped up to Chicago for his next two starts, Gun Salute was just up in time to win the American Derby (gr. IIT) July 23 by a nose and won the Secretariat by 1 3/4 lengths. Cornelio Velasquez returns to ride.

Second choice, at 7-2, is Irish-bred Embossed, who will be making his fourth start in the United States. Trained by Niall O'Callaghan, Embossed won at Hawthorne Sept. 23 last time out and again will be ridden by Larry Melancon.

Cosmic Kris, trained by Frank Springer and 5-1 in the morningline, goes into the Derby off a score in the Paradise Creek Stakes on turf Sept. 17 at Arlington. He earlier was third in the Arlington Classic (gr. IIIT) and fourth in the American Derby.

Hawthorne Derby
Post Horse Jockey Morningline Odds
1 Bellator Brice Blanc 10-1
2 Thunder Mission Jesse Campbell 6-1
3 Gun Salute Cornelio Velasquez 3-5
4 Cosmic Kris E.T. Baird 5-1
5 Embossed (IRE) Larry Melancon 7-2