No. 13 Departing has been installed by oddsmakers as the lukewarm 7/2 favorite, followed by No. 12 Siete de Oros (5/1) and No. 9 Show Some Magic (6/1).
Departing closed to finish third in last month’s Louisiana Derby, ending a string of three straight wins. Jockey Brian Hernandez has been on board for all four outings, making the trip north here after reaching career-high speed in New Orleans.
Siete de Oros has gone without a victory in his last four starts, idle for seven weeks since placing fourth in Aqueduct’s Gotham Stakes. The contender switches riders back to Angel Arroyo, who rode him to two victories over three of his first four career outings.
Show Some Magic has jogged one mile or longer in his last six races, most recently finishing second in March’s Sunland Derby. Henry Dominguez’ colt is 2-for-11 lifetime, leading the field in earnings with $366,890.
Long shots: Pletcher arrives with Abraham
No. 2 Dewey Square, No. 5 Ground Transport and No. 8 Abraham follow the top three choices all at 8/1 betting odds.
Dewey Square has not hit the board in his last two starts, dropping in speed since October’s most recent victory at Churchill Downs. Ground Transport keeps Mark Guidry aboard here after two wins in this year’s three starts. Abraham ships in for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won his fourth Illinois Derby with Joe Vann, two years ago.
No. 4 For Greater Glory, No. 6 Taken by the Storm and No. 11 Stormin Monarcho begin the longer shot prices, all listed at 15/1.
For Greater Glory switches back to dirt, following a pair of lackluster starts on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface. Taken by the Storm hit career-high speed in Turfway’s Spiral Stakes, despite fading to finish fourth. Stormin Monarcho is 1-for-3 in starts at Hawthorne, switching riders here to Florent Geroux (18-for-96).
The field rounds out with its five remaining challengers, listed at 20/1 odds or more.
No. 1 Bells Big Bernie has six straight trips on Hawthorne’s oval, winning his most recent pair in last month’s action. Street Spice (No. 3) is the son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, entering this affair winning two of his last four outings. No. 7 Dakota Mac is the contest’s greenest entrant with two starts for trainer Hugh Robertson, who is 5-for-23 in Hawtorne’s meet.
No. 10 Fordubai and No. 14 Narvaez both look for an upset from the outside. Fordubai has won two of three starts at Hawthorne, keeping rider Diego Sanchez (7-for-36) here. Narvaez last ran in the Florida Derby, finishing fourth for the second time in three starts.
Selections: Ground Transport, Bells Big Bernie, Fordubai
The Illinois Derby is Race No. 8 on Hawthone’s slate, expected to start at 5:15 p.m. CT. Weather calls for a 46-degree afternoon, with no chance of rain.
I am backing Ground Transport as my top choice sports pick in the race, while placing a few dollars on long shots Bells Big Bernie and Fordubai.
Ground Transport broke from the No. 13 hole in the Louisiana Derby having to go wide against a talented field. Mark Guidry should have chances for a better trip this time around, while Big Brown’s bloodline is always worth respect at a fair price.
Bells Big Bernie has been seeing increased speed and keeps hot rider Timothy Thornton mounted, who has won 37-of-154 starts at Hawthorne. The colt has handled spurts of increased distance with success and could continue prospering here, despite stepping up in class.
Fordubai’s speed has also grown leaps and bounds with each start, stretching out again here. Trainer Greg Geier has hit the board with 6-of-7 starters in the present meet and could cash a ticket again here at a sizable price.