After the inexperienced Greeley's Galaxy made a laugher out of Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II), it didn' take owner B. Wayne Hughes long to make a decision on whether he would spend $200,000 to supplement his chestnut colt to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"If we can get in, we will," Hughes told a national television audience from Santa Anita Park, where he was preparing to watch his Don't Get Mad battle in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
"The problem ... is that nominated horses have preference over supplemented horses," winning trainer Glen Stute said. "We have always had a lot of faith in this horse, but Mr. Hughes had another horse he thought was a little better.
"I love the way he works, how he runs with his head down. He's just a real hard knocker."
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Greeley's Galaxy avoided a speed duel in the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby after breaking quickly from his rail post. Desormeaux took the son of Mr. Greeley off the lead as Daddy Joe and and Kansas City Boy dueled early. Desormeaux edged Greeley's Galaxy three-wide on the far turn, getting the lead easily from the tiring pacesetters and romped down the stretch under a hand ride without a challenge, winning by 9 1/2 lengths.
The 9-5 favorite in the field of eight, Greeley's Galaxy was leading by five lengths with a furlong left and completed the nine furlongs in 1:49 3/5.
Stute took over saddling duties for his father Warren Stute Saturday. It was just the fourth start for the Kentucky-bred and his first in a stakes race. His only loss came in his debut. He was coming off a four-length victory over first-level allowance foes at Santa Anita March 10.
A confident Desormeaux heaped praise on the job Warren Stute has done with the green colt.
"Mr. Stute has done a great job with him," the jockey said. "He rates with experience for as many times as he has been out there. He has got a great mind. Mr. Stute has done a great job with him in the mornings teaching him everything he needs to do out here in the afternoon and today it took a lot a patience on the horse's part because I had do drag him back on the first turn.
"He wanted to go to the fight and be a racehorse and do what they learn to do, like outrun the horses next to them, but I needed him to wait. I thought we were going honest enough to where I could get him back in a nice gap where I could slide him out when I was ready and he handled that. I think that's the part that sets him apart from the rest."
Daddy Joe led through fractions of :22 3/5, :46 2/5 and 1:11 2/5 while getting heavy pressure Kansas City Boy, who broke from the extreme outside.
Greeley's Galaxy paid $5.60, $3.80 and $2.80. Monarch Lane, ridden by Chris DeCarlo, finished second, two lengths clear, returning $5 and $3.40. DeCarlo was encouraged by the runner-up's effort.
"He ended up a little wide up the back side. He was trying to get away from the dirt so I just wanted to keep him in the clear. When we hit the stretch I had the winner in my sights but he just had too much horse. This was a huge race. He will definitely move forward from here."
Magna Graduate's show was $3 with Eddie Razo Jr. aboard.
"Up the backside I was sitting in good position and I thought I had a shot," Razo said. "I was sitting nice and easy. In the stretch he flattened out a little and at the eighth pole the other two horses just ran away from me."
The Ascot Knight mare Ascot Starre produced Greeley's Galaxy, a $220,000 Keeneland buy in April 2004. The victory was worth $300,000.
Rikman finished fourth, followed by Win Me Over, Daddy Joe, Medigating and, Kansas City Boy. Unbridled Energy scratched.