2012 Illinois Derby: Preview And Picks For Saturday's Race

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05: A horse is bathed in preparation for the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Todd Pletcher's Our Entourage leads a field of 14 in Saturday's Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse.

The 2012 Illinois Derby isn't the biggest Kentucky Derby prep on Saturday - that distinction belongs to the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby - but it does provide the opportunity for one horse to put his name on the fringe of the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Post time for the $500,000 Grade 3 Illinois Derby is scheduled for 6:46 Eastern/3:46 Pacific and the race will be broadcast on TVG.

Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for the 2012 Illinois Derby.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Romancing the Gold I. Ortiz J. Englehart 15/1
2 Hakama J. Pimentel M. Trombetta 6/1
3 Ring It Up L. Wade C. Richard 15/1
4 Currency Swap S. Bridgmohan T. Pompay 4/1
5 Pretension J. Santiago C. Grove 5/1
6 Skyring R. Vazquez D.W. Lukas 20/1
7 Saturday Launch C. Emigh K. McPeek 15/1
8 Z Rockstar Q. Hamilton D. Von Hemel 10/1
9 Fastestwhogetspaid I. Ocampo B. Williamson 30/1
10 Frankie Is Rock E. Perez R. Aquilar 30/1
11 Our Entourage E. Castro T. Pletcher 9/2
12 Morgan's Guerilla R. Napravnik M. Maker 10/1
13 Done Talking S. Russell H. Smith 20/1
14 Slamit C. Hill T. Ice 30/1
15 AE Explain F. Torres B. Cox 20/1
16 AE Arm Force E. Castro E. Harty 15/1
17 AE Defiant Flyer S. Martinez L. Davis 30/1

1-Romancing the Gold (15/1): Ships in from New York where he recently won a $75k Optional Claimer/N1X level race. He's facing a major class test in this spot.

2-Hakama (6/1): Finished last in the G3-Withers behind Alpha but had some difficultly leaving the gate; rebounded nicely in his next start in an ungraded stakes race at Laurel. A son of First Samuari, Hakama possesses a good deal of early pace but might be near the limits of his stamina in a nine furlong race.

3-Ring It Up (15/1): This colt ran fairly well in the first division of the G3-Southwest Stakes, a race that has turned out to be much weaker than the second division. He hasn't won a race since breaking his maiden at Remington last October

4-Currency Swap (4/1): The only defeat of his career came when he lost by seven lengths to Gemologist in an allowance event at Gulfstream Park in his last start. He was five lengths clear of the show horse, Angel's Tune.

5-Pretension (5/1): Another shipper from New York, this one coming in off of a distant fifth place finish in the G3-Gotham Stakes back on March 3rd.

6-Skyring (20/1): Ships in from Oaklawn Park for trainer D. Wayne Lukas after breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt on St. Patrick's Day. This colt possesses decent tactical speed and shouldn't have any issues with the distance. He will, however, be facing a much more difficult class test.

7-Saturday Launch (15/1): This son of Any Given Saturday has finished in the money seven times in nine starts, but six of those races came on the turf and the other was on the Polytrack at Keeneland. How did he fare in his only dirt race? An 11th place finish, over 15 lengths back of the winner.

8-Z Rockstar (10/1): He ran in the stronger division of the G3-Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in late February but was well behind Secret Circle and Scatman when they crossed the wire. Like several of his rivals, Z Rockstar has a good deal of early speed and should help ensure a solid pace.

9-Fastestwhogetspaid (30/1): If you're looking for things to like about this colt, look no further than his 3-2-0-1 lifetime record at Hawthorne. On the downside, he's a son of former sprinter Henny Hughes and could find the nine furlongs of the Illinois Derby just a little bit longer than he'd prefer.

10-Frankie Is Rock (30/1): Another local horse; Frankie Is Rock's first two starts of the year were uninspiring likely due to the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park. He should improve with a return to dirt.

11-Our Entourage (9/2): Mike Repole, owner of 2011 Triple Crown contenders Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, will attempt to get back to the Derby with Our Entourage, a colt that has displayed a good amount of talent on the grass but not quite as much on the dirt. He ran fairly well in the G2-Remsen in late November of 2011, but at this point in his career he appears to be a better horse on grass than on the main track.

12-Morgan's Guerilla (10/1): A wonderfully bred son of former Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper out of a Saint Ballado mare (Rutledge Ballado), Morgan's Guerilla comes into the Illinois Derby off of a maiden breaking victory in the mud at Aqueduct back on March 3rd. It's always hard to jump up to the graded stakes level fresh of a maiden victory, but Morgan's Guerilla catches a field that is big in size but not incredibly deep. If this colt can make a moderate improvement off of his last race, he could find himself in the mix in the final furlongs.

13-Done Talking (20/1): In his last race, Done Talking finished over 20 lengths behind Hansen in an effort that was all-around dull. He showed some promise as a juvenile and was a good 4th in the G2-Remsen at Aqueduct, but it's hard not to be concerned after that horrible debut in early March.

14-Slamit (30/1): Trainer Tim Ice ships this colt in from Sam Houston where he recently won a minor stakes race at a mile in the mud.

Also Eligible

All of the next three horses will need one of the previous 14 horses to scratch in order to make it into the field on Saturday.

15-Explain (20/1): Ran a huge race at Oaklawn fresh off of his maiden score, only to come up a couple of lengths short of Z Rockstar at the wire.

16-Arm Force (15/1): Broke his maiden in his most recent start at Gulfstream Park and will try two turns for the first time in this race. Sired by former dual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, and out of a mare that's produced several route winners, Arm Force might be at his best when stretching out.

17-Defiant Flyer (30/1): If he draws into the field he'll need a lot of help, especially from the pacesetters; Defiant Flyer has closed from well back of the leaders in all of this nine lifetime starts. Hawthorne is the kindest track for horses coming from off the pace, something this colt will have to overcome if he's to have any shot at victory.

The Pick

With a 14 horse field, you're not going to have to look too far in order to bring home a nice price. Even though the pace looks like it's going to be on the strong side, I like the chances of Morgan's Guerilla, especially if his odds stay around his morning line mark of 10/1. Hawthorne's main track tends to play well for front-end speed and this colt should the leader as the field heads into the first turn. If he can sneak away from his rivals, Morgan's Guerilla has a chance to go wire-to-wire.

If Arm Force draws into the field, I'll put together an exacta with both the 12 and the 16.

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