by J. Keeler Johnson
In the aftermath of an unpredictable and occasionally controversial Triple Crown season, Owendale bolstered his own claims to division leadership with a hard-fought victory in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) on Saturday at Thistledown.
Entering off a victory in the Lexington Stakes (G3) and a respectable third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Owendale was favored at 7-10 to prevail in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby and rewarded his backers with yet another sharp performance.
Under a patient ride from jockey Florent Geroux, Owendale settled last of six early on as longshot Dare Day carved out fractions of :22.66, :47.62 and 1:12.80. Fellow longshots Bethlehem Road and Going for Gold were Dare Day’s closest pursuers, while Rebel Stakes (G2) division winner Long Range Toddy bided his time in fourth place, just ahead of Math Wizard.
As the front runners began to weaken, the three favorites quickly swept to the front, with Math Wizard splitting horses to seize a clear lead at the top of the stretch. However, Owendale, following Math Wizard between horses, cut the corner and rallied inside to confront Math Wizard at the eighth-pole. This bold, ground-saving move proved decisive, as Owendale gradually pulled away to win by a half-length in 1:50.88.
Demonstrating how strongly both horses performed, there was a gap of 9 1/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Long Range Toddy, with the rest of the runners beaten by 20 lengths or more. Owendale, trained by Brad Cox and owned by Rupp Racing, paid $3.40 to win and boosted his career earnings to $668,725.
With two graded victories and a classic-placing under his belt, Owendale has quietly compiled an admirable record during the first six months of 2019. With respective Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Country House and Sir Winston sidelined for the time being, the door is open for a late-maturing three-year-old to step up and claim division leadership during the second half of the season.
Suffice to say, Owendale’s Ohio Derby victory was a step in the right direction. Should he prevail in one of the major summer tests for sophomores – the Haskell Invitational (G1) or Travers Stakes (G1) – he could quickly join Florida Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security and Preakness scorer War of Will at the top of the three-year-old rankings.