SHELBYVILLE, IND. — The most improved horse in this year’s classic crop is undoubtedly Irap. A maiden as late as April, when he shockingly won the Blue Grass (G2) at 31-1, the son of Tiznow has now beaten all of his contemporaries to three graded stakes wins on the season after a dominating five-length score in Saturday night’s $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Grand.
The 7-5 favorite off a second graded victory in the Ohio Derby (G3), Irap broke from the inside post, but drifted out into the five path by Mario Gutierrez around the first turn and continued to stalk while racing wide down the backside. Making a six-wide bid around the far turn, he seized control approaching the quarter pole, drifted out again entering the stretch but turned it on late to smash his rivals in a time of 1:42.21 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track.
Owned by Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, Irap returned $4.80. Colonelsdarktemper was a clear second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of second choice Untrapped. The order of finish was rounded out by Watch Me Whip, Awesome Saturday, early pacesetter Wild Shot, Hollywood Handsome, Han Sense, Brockton George, and Top Credentials.
“I think you have to (take Irap seriously),” O’Neill said. “He’s getting better with each race. We’ve learned so much from him. We just couldn’t be more happy than we are now. And Mario rode just a perfect race. Just very, very happy.”
Reddam indicated Irap would take his shot “at the big boys again,” meaning the 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) at Saratoga in late August.
The $285,000 winner’s share boosted Irap’s earnings to $1,357,600 from a line of 11-3-3-1. Despite his maiden status prior to the Blue Grass, Irap had placed in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), Robert B. Lewis (G3) and Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park prior to a fourth in the Sunland Derby (G3).
Eighteenth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after his Blue Grass win, Irap rallied late to take the Ohio Derby at Thistledown by a nose over Girvin.
“He’s definitely grown up since then (the Kentucky Derby),” Gutierrez said. “He was very unlucky in that race, and he was a bit immature back then. He has matured a lot, and he showed that today.”
Indiana Grand reported record attendance of 13,622 and record handle of $3.581 million on Saturday’s 10-race program.
In undercard stakes action:
Winless since taking the Ben Ali (G3) in April 2016, Will Farish’s Eagle ended the losing skid with a victory in the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial, prevailing in a three-way photo over Fear the Cowboy and Mo Tom. The favorite, Eagle saved ground throughout and rallied inside for the win under Brian Hernandez Jr..
Trained by Neil Howard, Eagle returned $7.80 and covered one mile and 70 yards in 1:40.24.
Second in his title defense of the Ben Ali, Eagle had otherwise been unplaced four of his previous five starts.
Jockey Florent Geroux had a riding triple Saturday night, two for trainer Brad Cox and one for a horse claimed off of Cox for $62,500 at Churchill Downs earlier this month.
The latter was Western Reserve, who grabbed the early lead from 13-10 favorite Chocolate Ride and opened up late to take the $100,000 Warrior Veterans by 3 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:41.83 for 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf.
Now owned by Turf Stable Racing and trained by J.K. Sweezey, Western Reserve paid $10.80. Longshots One Mean Man and Special Ops rounded out the trifecta, with Chocolate Ride fourth.
Over the winter Western Reserve won the Buddy Diliberto Memorial at Fair Grounds and ran second in the Colonel E.R. Bradley H. (G3) over the same course.
Geroux’s other stakes win, this time for Cox, was aboard the 7-1 chance Tiger Moth in the $100,000 Mari Hullman George. With a strong, five-wide close, she won by 2 1/2 lengths over Mo d’Amour, with even-money favorite Big World third. The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.32.
A homebred racing for John Gunther, Tiger Moth had been unplaced three times in graded company since finishing third in the Azeri (G3) at Oaklawn in March.
Jockey James Graham, meanwhile, rode the first of two consecutive longshot winners on the card by guiding Beauly to a 13-1 score over 9-10 favorite Linda in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly for fillies and mares on the turf.
The trailer in the field of seven most of the way, Beauly shot through an open lane at the rail in the stretch and scored by a half-length in a time of 1:42.27 for 1 1/16 miles.
Owned by Rebecca Hillen and trained by Brendan Walsh, the four-year-old by Sea the Stars was stakes-placed in England and had run first and fourth in her first two U.S. starts against allowance company at Churchill Downs.