Donald Adam's Adriano, a dramatic winner of the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park in his most recent start, will clearly be the horse to fend off as a field of eight go to post in Saturday's grassy 1 1/8 Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby.
Adriano's come-from-behind win in the Kent was contested at today's distance, but it was run over a soft turf course. His Hall of Fame trainer Billy Mott thinks that Adriano can be even stronger with firmer going.
"I thought his last race was very good considering it was on soft ground," Mott said. "I don't think he really likes it soft and I think he ran in spite of it. I thought he closed very well and dug in hard even though he looked to me to be beaten at the 3/8ths pole. But once Kent (Desormeaux) got him straightened out and found some firmer ground he closed quite well."
Earlier in the year Adriano was on the Classic trail, but after finishing 19th in the Kentucky Derby, it appears that the son of A.P. Indy will be sticking to green and synthetics.
"I doubt seriously we will be back on the dirt with him," Mott offered. "I think his best races have been on the turf or the synthetics and there should be plenty of good races for him when we bring him back as a 4-year-old."
While Adriano figures to be a formidable opponent, some local participants will give it their best try. Trainer Anthony Granitz sends out Mr. Mischief, a winner of two straight at Arlington Park, but at shorter distances. Granitz won this race in 2005 with his only previous Derby starter, False Promises, and he'll try to make it two-for-two on Saturday.
"I wish the race was shorter, maybe a mile or so," Granitz quipped. "But he's (Mr. Mischief) doing well and Razo thought he won easy in his last start despite the margin of victory. We have the rail and there doesn't seem to be a lot of pace in the race and he could be on the lead where he runs some of his best races."
Eddie Razo has ridden Mr. Mischief in all three of the gelding's wins and he'll be back aboard as they team up for their first start in a graded stake.
Cherokee Triangle is another interesting alternative to the probable favorite. Trained by Michael Maker, this colt is also coming off two straight victories, both of them stakes, and the connections are optimistic their colt can take the step up in class.
"The horse is doing great even though we had a little bit of a set back at Arlington," Maker said. "We've been shooting for this race all year and even though Adriano is the horse to beat, I think this is a very competitive race and if the track is firm I like my chances."
The field for the Hawthorne Derby by post position, with jockeys and morning line odds:
Mr. Mischief, Razo Jr. (8-1); Cherokee Triangle, Lebron (4-1); Adriano, Desormeaux (3-1); Let It Rock, Quinonez (6-1); Robscarvic, Fogelsonger (8-1); Snoose Goose, Emigh (6-1); Strait of Mewsina, Baird (9-2); Denim, Torres (10-1)
The Mary D. Keim Owners Handicap
In a race restricted to majority Illinois-resident ownership, a full and contentious field of twelve fillies and mares will battle it out for the lion's share of $75,000 in the Mary D. Keim Owners Handicap. The race will be run over the turf course at a distance of one mile.
Five of today's starters are exiting the Vanier Illinois Owners Stakes held at Arlington Park last month. Si Si Mon Ami, the beaten favorite that day, will look to rebound in this spot as she looks for her third career victory. The Granitz-trained runner was a well-beaten runner-up in the Vanier Stakes, an event that was run at a distance of one mile and one-sixteenths over a soft course.
Eddie Razo will ride Si Si Mon Amie, who was listed as the 4-1 morning line choice.