July 14, 2024

Verifying, Taxed top Indiana Derby and Oaks fields

Verifying romps in an Oaklawn Park allowance (Photo by Coady Photography)

Verifying, who settled for second three times in earlier graded stakes attempts, might be well positioned to earn gold in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Horseshoe Indianapolis on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile Derby is the finale on a stakes-laden, 12-race program.

Trained by Brad Cox, Verifying showed promise at two when finishing second to Blazing Sevens in the Champagne (G1). Although his form has been uneven since, narrow losses to Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass (G1) and to Disarm in the Matt Winn (G3) point him out as the one to beat in the Indiana Derby.

The field’s other stakes winners are the well-traveled Hayes Strike, whose wins this year include the Private Terms S. at Laurel and the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park; Raise Cain, unplaced three times since upsetting the Gotham (G3) and cross-entered in Saturday night’s Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows; and Act a Fool, who rides in on a four-race win streak including a modest renewal of the Hawthorne Derby on turf.

Cagliostro fared poorly in his only prior stakes try, the Louisiana Derby (G2) in March, but his two photo-finish losses in allowance company suggest he’s fast enough with his best effort. Others to watch for are Transect, a second-level allowance winner against older rivals at Indianapolis on May 22, and the Steve Asmussen-trained Onthestage, who’s shown notable improvement in a pair of recent outings at Lone Star.

Taxed, a dominating winner of the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico on May 19, looms the one to beat in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) at 1 1/16 miles. Her rivals include Defining Purpose, who upset the Ashland (G1) before weakening to seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and the Cox-trained stakes winner Merlazza, who finished fifth to Taxed in the Black-Eyed Susan last time.

Of the open stakes on the undercard, the grass features are the most intriguing. Horses to watch in the $100,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial at 1 1/16 miles are Elkhorn (G2) winner Verstappen; Grade 1 veteran In Love; Grade 2-placed stakes winner Gentle Soul; Grade 1-placed Indiana-bred Strong Tide; and stakes newcomer McLovin, who has won three of his last four in overnight company.

Also at 1 1/16 miles is the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff for fillies and mares. Its lineup includes recent Mint Julep (G3) heroine Henrietta Topham; the graded-placed Sweet Dani Girl, Juncture, and Princess Theorem; and Keertana S. runner-up Lovely Princess.