Hedge Fun and It’s Your Nickel will square off on Saturday as part of a seven-sophomore field entered in the $250,000 Illinois Derby (G2) at Hawthorne.
Hedge Fund comes from Todd Pletcher’s shedrow off a third-place run in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 26 going the Illinois Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles. Prior to that, the chestnut son of Super Saver easily broke his maiden in his second try by four lengths at Gulfstream Park.
It’s Your Nickel captured his maiden on the turf at Saratoga last August and wasn’t seen again until showing up for an allowance/optional claimer at Fair Grounds on January 27. The Kenny McPeek pupil ran a neck second that day, but was elevated to first via disqualification of the winner. It’s Your Nickel returned in early March to romp by 6 1/2 lengths in the John Battaglia Stakes over Turfway Park’s synthetic Polytrack, and enters the Illinois Derby off a subpar sixth in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on April 8.
Jose Valdivia Jr. has the call Saturday on Hedge Fund, while Channing Hill will be in the pilot’s seat for It’s Your Nickel.
Like It’s Your Nickel, Hollywood Handsome is Triple Crown nominated and could attempt to parlay a win in the Illinois Derby into a Preakness Stakes (G1) or Belmont Stakes (G1) berth. The Dallas Stewart-conditioned colt broke his maiden at Fair Grounds in his fifth try on January 21, then just missed by three parts of a length when third against allowance/optional claiming rivals. He suffered a wide trip while making his stakes bow in the Louisiana Derby (G2) last out, but still managed to rally from last to just miss third by a nose on the wire. Robby Albarado has the call Saturday.
Stand and Cheer, and St. Louie Guy are the only runners in this field with prior experience at Hawthorne.
The former recorded his initial career victory by 10 lengths at Hawthorne last October, one race after rallying for fourth in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3), his only stakes try to date. St. Louie Guy, sixth in the Arlington-Washington Futurity and third in the Space City Stakes at Sam Houston, took a spin around Hawthorne on April 7 against allowance/optional claiming rivals and pulled away to a nine-length score.
Victor Santiago stays aboard St. Louie Guy while Christopher Emigh teams up with Stand and Cheer for the first time in this spot.
Mr. Misunderstood brings a three-race win streak into this, his stakes bow, with the latest triumph came by nine lengths in an off-the-turf allowance/optional claimer at Fair Grounds. Florent Geroux takes back the mount.
Multiplier rounds out the Illinois Derby field after breaking his maiden on March 18 at Fair Grounds in his third try. James Graham has been tabbed by trainer Brendan Walsh to ride.