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The Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on Saturday, June 27 is a Kentucky Derby prep race for the first time ever with the "Run for the Roses" being moved to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. Carded as Race 8 at 4:22 p.m. Eastern, the Ohio Derby will award 20-8-4-2 qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Unbeaten as a 3-year-old with back-to-back stakes wins at Laurel Park in Maryland, Euro Stable's Lebda (by Raison d'Etat) will face his biggest challenge yet when he stretches out for his return to graded company.
Based at Laurel with summer meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, Lebda is listed as second choice on the morning line at odds of 7-2 in a field of 15 led by lukewarm 3-1 program favorite Storm the Court, the 2019 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and subsequent 2-year-old male champion.
Race 8 at Thistledown on Saturday, June 27 - Post 4:22 PM
|1||Dean Martini||20-1||Ricardo Mejias
|2||Rogue Element||30-1||John McKee
|3||Rowdy Yates||9-2||Tyler Baze
|5||Dack Janiel's||15-1||Julie Burke
|Uriah St. Lewis|
|8||Bear Alley||30-1||Gerardo Corrales
|9||Code Runner||6-1||Ricardo Feliciano
|10||South Bend||8-1||Rafael Bejarano
|13||Storm the Court||3-1||Flavien Prat
|15||Celtic Striker||15-1||Reylu Gutierrez
"We've been looking at races everywhere because here at Laurel we don't have anything right now, and this race came up," Gonzalez said. "He needs to run. He's feeling really good and he's ready, that's why we decided to go over there. And he fits right in with the horses there."
Contested at 1 1/8 miles, the Ohio Derby will be the Lebda's longest race to date and first since a convincing 4 ¼-length triumph in the Private Terms March 14 at Laurel, also around two turns at about 1 1/16 miles. He was a front-running three-quarter-length winner of the one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 15 in his season opener.
Lebda raced twice in graded-stakes as a 2-year-old, running third in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs before a ninth-place finish in the one-mile Nashua (G3) in November at Aqueduct - his only time off the board in eight career starts that include four wins.
"All the time he gets better and better. He's more mature now and he's concentrating more on his training," Gonzalez said. "He won around two turns and he ran two turns before at Churchill Downs, too, and I don't think he ran bad.
"I really think he's going to like the track over there and he's going to run good. He's going to be right there," he added. "We're going to try to get a good position going into the first turn and then we'll see what happens."
Thistledown, located in North Randall, Ohio, outside Cleveland, will be the fifth racetrack for Lebda, having also romped by 11 lengths in a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming sprint last summer at Delaware Park.
Lebda was among the late nominees to the Triple Crown for a fee of $3,000, half of the original price tag before the deadline was extended to June 4 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which put Maryland's live racing on pause for 2 ½ months until May 30.
Maryland's leading trainer the past three years, Gonzalez has given Lebda nine timed works over Laurel's main track since the Private Terms, including three consecutive bullet five-furlong breezes - 59.20 seconds May 29, 59.60 seconds June 12 and 1:00.20 June 19, respectively the fastest of 26, 11 and 17 horses.
"The owner [Valter Ramos] is a really good owner, a really good person, and that's why I try to run in the big races because you never know, especially when they're doing good," Gonzalez said. "He's doing really good. He's happy."
Gonzalez has one graded-stakes victory on his resume, the 2017 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel with Chublicious. Regular rider Alex Cintron will make the trip to ride with four previous graded wins, two of them coming last year - the Highlander (G1) on Wet Your Whistle and Honorable Miss (G2) aboard Minit to Stardom.
Cintron and Lebda will break from Post 4. Post time for the Ohio Derby, Race 8 at Thistledown, is 4:22 p.m. ET.
Other Ohio Derby horses with Maryland connections are stakes winner South Bend, owned by Sagamore Farm of Reisterstown, Md., and Trin-Brook Stables Inc.'s Informative, second by a nose in the James F. Lewis III last November at Laurel.
Magic Weisner, based in Maryland with his late breeder, owner and trainer Nancy Alberts, won the Private Terms and was second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) in 2002 before capturing that year's Ohio Derby.
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will partner with Churchill Downs and Thistledown to host a Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday, June 27.
Thistledown, located in North Randall, Ohio, will kick off the sequence with the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby. The Buckeye State's premier race will be a Kentucky Derby prep race for the first time with the "Run for the Roses" being moved to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Carded as Race 8 at 4:22 p.m. Eastern, the Ohio Derby will award 20-8-4-2 qualifying points to the top-four finishers. Among the contenders is Storm the Court, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November who is winless in three starts this year, though he did finish third in the Grade 2 San Felipe in March at Santa Anita. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will enter a pair of contenders in Rowdy Yates and Code Runner, who ran eighth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before defeating allowance company earlier this month at Lone Star.
Action will shift to Belmont Park for the second leg, with the Grade 2, $150,000 True North for 4-year-olds and up in Race 9 at 5:36 p.m. Grade 1-winner Promises Fulfilled returns off a more than eight month layoff as part of an eight-horse field that also includes Yorkton, a multiple graded-stakes winner on synthetic, who is seeking his first win on the main track.
For the Pick 5's third race, Churchill will take its star turn with the Grade 2, $500,000 Stephen Foster in Race 10 at 5:47 p.m. A "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Keeneland, the Stephen Foster, for 4-year-olds and up contesting at 1 1/8 miles, will see Tom's d'Etat, a winner of three straight, including the Grade 1 Clark in November over the same track, breaking from post 5 for trainer Al Stall, Jr. Other contenders include By My Standards, the winner of the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, and Owendale, the winner of the Blame at Churchill on May 23.
Belmont will host the fourth leg with the Grade 1, $250,000 Just a Game for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going one mile on the Widener turf in Race 10 at 6:08 p.m. Trainer Chad Brown, seeking his fourth straight win in the race, will saddle three of the seven contenders, including the top-two morning line selections in 7-5 Uni and 8-5 Newspaperofrecord, along with Regal Glory [10-1].
Defending Champion Turf Mare Uni will make her 2020 debut in the Just a Game, having not raced since taking last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, where she became the sixth female to score a win in the race.
Newspaperofrecord arrives off a win Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 6 over the Widener turf. Other contenders include Got Stormy, Beau Recall, Valedictorian and Zofelle.
Closing out the sequence will be the Grade 3, $100,000 Regret at Churchill in Race 11 at 6:20 p.m. Two-time stakes-winning filly Micheline will be in search of her first graded stakes victory as part of a 13-horse field. Harvey's Lil Goil, winner of the Busanda in February at Aqueduct Racetrack, drew post 10.
The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on ADW platforms and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.
Leg 1 - Thistledown, Race 8: Grade 3 Ohio Derby (4:22 p.m.)
Leg 2 - Belmont, Race 9: Grade 2 True North (5:36 p.m.)
Leg 3 - Churchill, Race 10: Grade 2 Stephen Foster (5:47 p.m.)
Leg 4 - Belmont, Race 10: Grade 1 Just a Game (6:08 p.m.)
Leg 5 - Churchill, Race 11: Grade 3 Regret (6:20 p.m.)
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