A field of 10 three-year-olds, many of them never on the Triple Crown Trail, is expected for the Grade III Ohio Derby on Saturday according to Director of Racing Bill Couch. Entries will be drawn today at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel has moved Caleb's Posse from probable to definite for the $100,000 race at Thistledown.
"It's a good race with a lot of tradition, and we think he'll be competitive there," said Von Hemel. "We think the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance is good for him and the timing sets him up for the Iowa Derby three weeks later. We're optimistic and looking to have some fun (at Thistledown)."
Von Hemel gave Caleb's Posse a breather after the Grade I Arkansas Derby. A troubled start in that race took him out of the game early and he finished 12th, but he since has posted two excellent works at Arlington Park, a best-of-45 four furlongs in :47.4 on May 15 and five furlongs in a minute flat a week later. Caleb's Posse has two non-graded stakes wins and is graded stakes-placed, including a runner-up finish to The Factor in the Grade II Rebel Stakes.
Caleb's Posse will arrive at Thistledown from Arlington on Thursday evening. Regular rider Eusebio Razo Jr. has the call. The Posse colt is owned by McNeill Stables LLC and Cheyenne Stables LLC.
Goodtimehadbyall will represent co-owner and trainer Merrill Scherer. The gelding, by Quiet American, has raced short and long and on turf, all-weather, and dirt, but Scherer plans to settle him into a two-turn dirt career going forward.
"I think I've been too ambitious with him and put him in the wrong spots-two turns, one turn, short, long-and he hasn't known what he's supposed to do," said Scherer. "I ran him back in nine days for his last start (the Tom Ridge at Presque Isle). We'll keep him at two turns on the dirt and establish some consistency for him. He ran good against some good horses. He acts like the mile-and-a-sixteenth is as far as he'll want to go, but the short stretch at Thistledown will probably be an asset. He likes to make a big run."
Before his sixth-place finish in the Tom Ridge, a sprint race, Goodtimehadbyall closed with determination to win a seven-furlong optional allowance by half a length on the dirt at Churchill May 7. He started his three-year-old campaign with four optional allowances at four different distances at Fair Grounds, finishing second in three and fourth in the other.
Francisco Torres will ride Goodtimehadbyall. The gelding is owned by Scherer, Dan Lynch, and Ken Sentel.
Trainer Mike Maker sent El Grayling out against older horses at Churchill Downs in his last race, an allowance test on May 7 in which he finished fourth, beaten just over three lengths. "If he runs that race again, like he did against older horses, he can win the Ohio Derby," Maker said.
El Grayling started his 3-year-old campaign with three races at Gulfstream, finishing fourth in the first and third in the next, the latter a couple lengths behind eventual Preakness winner Shackleford. He was less successful in the Grade II Fountain of Youth, eased after a poor start left him out of touch with the field.
El Grayling has raced on the lead, close to the lead, and far off the pace. In the Ohio Derby Maker expects the El Prado colt to be closer to the front. Victor Lebron, who was aboard for his last two races, will be back up on Saturday. The colt will ship to Thistledown from Churchill's Trackside Training Center on Friday. El Grayling is owned by Tom and Matt Conway and Steve Hemberger.
Marco's Fling will be making his first start in stakes company but trainer Ray Vernino has confidence in his colt. "It's a step up for him but he's been running in good allowances. He likes to go long and I think this race fits him real well. I expect he'll break in front. He's a frontrunner and if he gets the lead he'll be hard to catch down the stretch."
Marco's Fling has won exactly that way at Thistledown before, winning a maiden special by seven lengths last fall. Three starts ago he was second, beaten less than two lengths, in a turf allowance at Tampa Bay. In his last race, an allowance taken off the turf at Indiana Downs May 9, he was third, also beaten less than two lengths. Between those starts he was fourth, again beaten less than two lengths, after setting the pace in an all-weather claiming start at Keenland.
Marco's Fling is owned by Shotgun Rag Racing Stables and will be ridden Saturday by Filmer Munaylla, who was aboard for the maiden romp.
Late additions to the Ohio Derby expected list are Le Mans, who broke his maiden by more than five lengths at Churchill Downs two weeks ago for trainer Steve Asmussen, and Wilkinson, who won the Grade III LeComte Stakes in January for Neil Howard. Wilkinson took a step back with off-the-board finishes in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. He regained his winning form in a Churchill allowance a month ago. Also newly confirmed is Picaroo, making his first start for Thistledown-based Elliot Sullivan after beginning his career with six starts in Florida.
Those expected to enter are Caleb's Posse (trainer Von Hemel); El Grayling (Maker); Global Power (Chad Brown); Goodtimehadbyall (Scherer); Irish Lion (Gerald Bennett); Le Mans (Asmussen); Marco's Fling (Vernino); Picaroo (Sullivan); Valient Tenobob (Laura Jackson); and Wilkinson (Howard).
--Edited track release