Magna Graduate, Pinpoint Top Ohio Derby Field

A field of five 3-year-olds is expected to contest Saturday's $350,000 Ohio Derby (gr. II) as Thistledown hosts the Buckeye state's richest Thoroughbred race.

The confirmed starters are: Magna Graduate, Hal's Image, Pinpoint, Straight Line and It's Time to Smile.

Magna Graduate captured the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in March. Since then, the colt has finished fourth in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park and the $300,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III) at Lone Star Park and finished third in the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) at Hawthorne. Magna Graduate represents local owner Elisabeth Alexander of Eutrophia Farm. Magna Graduate is due to arrive Thursday morning.

"His training schedule is pretty straight forward," says trainer Todd Pletcher. "He had his last breeze at Belmont Monday morning. He may gallop on Friday and do some paddock schooling. He fits this race and the distance is well within his reach." Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will have the mount.

Hal's Image, winner of the $100,000 Unbridled Stakes at Calder Race Course, is set to arrive Wednesday morning from Florida. Hal's Image is the half-brother to Hal's Hope, who won the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park in 2000.

"The timing is great and the distance fits," says trainer Barry Rose. "He's ready to go now. He's had a three-week layoff. He has a lot of speed and is a very excited horse, very similar to Hal's Hope."

Encouraged by Hal's Image's success in the Unbridled, Rose entered the son of Halo's Image in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), but the colt found the jump in class too tough and finished 11th. In his most recent start, Hal's Image was beaten by a head in allowance company at Calder. Hal's Image has a record of 2-3-2 in 18 career starts and has earned $132,320. Regular rider Carlos Olivero will have the mount Saturday.

Hal's Image is owned by Rose Family Stable, representing mother Elsie and the four children; Barry's father Harold, passed away in 2003. The family will reminisce fond memories during their visit to Ohio. The first winner Barry's mother and father celebrated was at Cranwood Park in 1952 with Oremurf.

Pinpoint began his racing career in February at Gulfstream Park. The colt collected three straight wins including the $100,000 Sir Barton at Pimlico in May. Pinpoint ran in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) but was unplaced. Pinpoint is trained by Nick Zito for owner- breeder Arthur B. Hancock, III. Jockey Larry Melancon will have the mount. Melancon is the fourth leading rider in races won in the history of Churchill Downs with over 860 victories and is the second leading jockey in stakes wins behind Pat Day.

Tim Poole, assistant trainer to Zito, says the 1-1/8 mile distance is the attraction for his horse. "He has the ability for this distance," says Poole. "He's a good natured horse that doesn't take too much to get ready to run. He's an intelligent individual who picks things up quickly and has talent. We've been lucky to have him in our barn."

Straight Line has two starts for the year including a win in three other than allowance at Arlington Park on June 4. Straight Line also ran in the $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park but was unplaced. Last year his campaign included a win in the $100,000 Iroquois (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. He defeated Greater Good, who outran Afleet Alex in the Rebel Stakes this year at Oaklawn Park. Straight Line is trained by Brian Williamson.

It's Time to Smile, who was beaten only a neck in the recent Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico to finish third, will be taking a huge step up in competition in the Ohio Derby. Racing primarily in allowance company at Charles Town, It's Time to Smile has a record of 3-2-2 in 12 starts and earnings of $63,400. Last year, he finished fifth in the $100,000 Maryland Stallion Stakes at Pimlico. Local jockey Scott Spieth is scheduled to ride.

Trainer Steven Brown also likes the distance of the race. "This horse has really started to do well running beyond a mile," says Brown. "He's bred to go the distance and I think the Ohio Derby will help him. He's a nice, honest, well-balanced horse that really runs his race." It's Time to Smile will arrive early Thursday morning.