by J. Keeler Johnson
In a race filled with twists, turns, and unforeseen drama, the majority of bettors walked away happy with the outcome of Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Grand, in which 9-10 shot Mr. Money overcame a tough trip to deliver as the odds-on betting choice.
Mr. Money could have been forgiven for coming up short in the face of challenging circumstances. Breaking from the outside post in a field of 11, Mr. Money was just settling down for three-wide stalking trip under jockey Gabriel Saez when he was prematurely confronted by Eskenforit, who had stumbled at the start and dislodged jockey Julien Leparoux.
Despite being passed with a rush by the loose runner, Mr. Money remained calm and professional, biding his time while five-time stakes winner Alwaysmining carved out steady fractions of :23.89, :47.62 and 1:11.40. Rounding the far turn, Saez had to decide whether to circle Eskenforit or risk rallying inside the loose runner, who seemed thoroughly at home racing with the pack and vying for supremacy.
Ultimately, Saez chose to move inside, and Mr. Money responded right on cue, edging past the pace-tracking Long Range Toddy to seize a clear lead, at least according to the rules of racing. Unofficially, Eskenforit remained a stubborn opponent, and while Mr. Money left his recognized rivals behind en route to a 2 1/2-length triumph, the colt came up a length short in his informal dual with Eskenforit.
This is worth noting because while the final time was recorded as 1:41.80, the clock was actually stopped by Eskenforit, suggesting Mr. Money’s personal time may have been closer to 1:41.95.
Setting aside the drama generated by Eskenforit, Mr. Money’s performance was another impressive showing from a rising star in the three-year-old division. Trained by Bret Calhoun for Allied Racing Stable LLC, Mr. Money first emerged on the scene with a respectable fourth-place finish in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). While he ultimately failed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby (G1), Mr. Money has come back strong through the spring and summer, scoring consecutive victories in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G3), Matt Winn Stakes (G3) and Indiana Derby.
These triumphs have stamped Mr. Money as an up-and-coming colt with the ability to make some noise during the second half of the season. Some fine horses followed him across the Indiana Derby finish line, including Gray Magician – runner-up in the U.A.E. Derby (G2) and a participant in the Kentucky Derby – and Math Wizard, runner-up in the Ohio Derby (G3).
Should Mr. Money step up and win a Grade 1 this summer or fall, he could legitimately emerge as a contender to steal champion three-year-old honors from the Triple Crown veterans. The August 24 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga could be just the place for Mr. Money to stake his claim for division leadership, though next-race plans have yet to be determined for the son of Goldencents, who boosted his career record to four wins and two seconds from nine starts, with earnings of $773,220.